The United States is losing its fight against the Islamic State as the number of extremists joining the battles is growing, House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul said Tuesday, echoing the findings in a bipartisan repor
t his committee released earlier in the day on the dire situation in the Middle East.
"This is a bipartisan report," the Texas Republican told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell
on her noon news program. "The facts are the facts, and the fact is, we're losing in this fight against ISIS."
He continued that fighters traveling to the region have increased greatly, with the report showing at least 30,000 foreign fighters have gone into the battles, including 5,000 with Western passports.
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"Hundreds of Americans have traveled there, and many have come back, so the threat to the Homeland is real," McCaul said, "Not only from foreign fighter travel, but radicalization over the Internet."
One of the problems is that the United States doesn't have a strategy for dealing with ISIS or even with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad effectively.
"This problem has exploded and mushroomed rather than being defeated," he told Mitchell. "Now, to complicate things from a foreign policy standpoint, now Russia is stepping into the fray to deal with ISIS."
In addition, McCaul said that even though President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin have been discussing the situation in Syria, and Iraq has been sharing its intelligence information with Russia, Iran, and Syria about ISIS, the United States has just one thing in common with Russia: a mutual dislike for terrorists.
"They know ISIS is becoming an increasing threat to the region, which is precisely why they're stepping up to the plate," said McCaul. "I think there's an opportunity to focus on ISIS, but long-term, you have to deal with Assad. He is a magnet for the jihadists. I'm hopeful the president can discuss with Mr. Putin a grateful exile program for Mr. Assad, to remove him from power. He will continue to be a magnet for the Sunni Arab extremists."
And as the war against ISIS is failing, McCaul thinks a Sunni Arab indigenous force is needed to battle Sunni extremists, but under American leadership and with American special forces embedded.
"We've got to get our partners, NATO partners, and global partners in this fight to destroy ISIS," he said. "Right now, it's been a policy of containment, not one to defeat and destroy. I think that's the great failure here."
But implementing and policing any economic sanctions against ISIS would be a difficult move, if it came to that, because "we have very little presence on the ground," McCaul said. "We have very little human intelligence, which is why the numbers I gave you, we're not even sure how real the numbers are."
And all Americans who are joining in the ISIS fight "present a ticking time bomb," said McCaul.
"What keeps me up at night are the ones we've missed, the ones who have come back who are plotting an attack," said McCaul. "The ones who are being radicalized over the Internet from Syria social media operatives; the case like Chattanooga that we didn't know about. We didn't have any warning signs. I'm concerned that could very well happen again."
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