U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) ordered by President Barack Obama last week will not weaken the group's overall terrorist capabilities, despite slowing its advance, a senior U.S. military official said.
"We assess that U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq have slowed ISIL's operational tempo and temporarily disrupted their advances toward the province of Erbil," said Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville, Joint Chiefs of Staff director of operations, according to The Hill
ISIS is also known as ISIL or the Islamic State.
"What I expect [ISIS] to do is look for other things to do, to pick up and move elsewhere. So I in no way want to suggest that we have effectively contained or that we are somehow breaking the momentum of the threat posed by [the group]," he said.
He added that the mission is helping Kurdish security forces by giving them time to fortify their positions as they receive additional reinforcements.
Mayville said the military had no plans to expand its operations beyond the current mission aimed at protecting U.S. citizens and rescuing refugees, stressing that the effect of the airstrikes was "temporary," The Hill reported.
Sen. John McCain agrees. The Arizona Republican has led the chorus of U.S. lawmakers who say Obama's limited airstrikes in Iraq do not constitute an aggressive and effective strategy to combat ISIS.
"I would be rushing equipment to Erbil. I would be launching airstrikes not only in Iraq, but in Syria against ISIS," McCain said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
"I would be providing as much training and equipment as I can to ... the Kurds, and I would do a lot of things that we can not have to wait for Maliki to leave there. And I would be giving assistance to the Syrian — the Free Syrian Army, which is on the ropes right now because we failed to help them.”
ISIS' reputation in the Middle East is that of a ruthless force, too radical even for Osama bin Laden. According to The Daily Mail
, the 9/11 mastermind wrote a letter disavowing ISIS and saying the group was so vicious it could damage al-Qaida's reputation. The 21-page letter was found among papers in bin Laden's hideout.
Indeed, ISIS has marched across a huge swath of Syria and Iraq, staging mass executions and displaying the heads of victims in village squares.
Thousands of Syrian and Iraqi Christians have been forced from their homes
in ISIS' march across the region. In some villages, ISIS has forced residents to convert, pay burdensome taxes, or be executed
. Some who have chosen conversion were executed anyway.
And the group has been accused of genocide
, targeting Yazidis, thousands of whom have been stranded on Iraq's Mount Sinjar
without food or water. The United States has airlifted supplies to the region, but the suffering continues.
ISIS has armed itself with American-made heavy artillery supplied to the Iraq Army and stolen after Iraqi soldiers either fled or were executed. The group also is making millions in black-market oil sales
from seized oil fields in the region.
Experts are warning that the threat ISIS poses to the United States should not be underestimated, and that the group may be capable of launching attacks on the U.S. mainland.
ISIS is "attracting Americans to their team" and is "the sexy group to join," Thomas Sanderson, co-director of the Transitional Threats project at the Center for Security and International Studies, told The Hill.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said Friday that ISIS had been focused on recruiting fighters to send to the West to "attack us in our backyard."
"The intent [to attack the United States] is there and we are concerned the capability is growing," a senior U.S. official said Monday, according to The Hill. The official was not identified by name.
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