Rep. Peter King (R-New York) issued a dire warning about the threat posed by the jihadist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL) in a conversation with Business Insider on Monday. King argued the group, which is currently mainly active in Iraq and Syria, is at least as dangerous as Al Qaeda to those living on American soil.
“We have to assume it’s a threat. I mean, when people say there are no terror threats from ISIS, you know, there were no terror threats to the United States from Al Qaeda on September 10th either, 2001,” King said.
The question of how dangerous ISIS could be here in the United States has been crucial as President Barack Obama has pushed for expanded military operations against the group.
King argued Al Qaeda in Iraq, which was a precursor to ISIS, expressed interest in attacking targets on American soil during its heyday. He pointed to the Western fighters who have joined ISIS as a particular concern.
“They have so many Americans, so many Europeans with passports that can come to the US on visa waiver,” King said of the group. “Whether there’s 15,000 or 30,000 [Western ISIS fighters], we have to assume at least five of them are going to try to get into this country. And so, I would say the threat is as much from them as it is from Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”
King also dismissed concerns military action against ISIS could make them more inclined to target the US or “bring us into it more than we are now.” He cited videos published by the group showing the execution of American citizens as proof a desire to avoid US military operations wouldn’t orevent them from staging an attack here.
“Hey, if they beheaded two Americans on television, they’re not going to be afraid to put a bomb in Lower Manhattan,” said King.
Though he believes there is widespread support for military operations against ISIS, King said he is not sure lawmakers agree on the best strategy to fight the group.
“Congress agrees that right now that we do have to have airstrikes in Syria and we should try to train and arm the Syrian moderates,” King said. “But there’s so much difference, I think, on the specifics. Like, for instance, how long do we wait on the airstrikes? Can we really count on the Free Syrian Army? And should we be ruling out ground troops so definitively the way the president is?”
Despite his concern about ISIS and support for attacking them, King offered some criticism for Obama’s handling of the group. Specifically, he said Obama is putting too much faith in the coalition he has assembled to combat ISIS. Citing the examples of the Bosnian War and Iraq War, King said the president should realise the US will have to do the majority of the fighting and be more frank about that with the American people.
“No matter what happens … we’re going to have to carry the brunt of this because the other countries are not able to,” said King. “The president should make that clear to the American people.”
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