Evil. Merciless. Barbaric. Those are just a few of the words that have been used to describe the terror group ISIS, or the “Islamic State.” In the eyes of the United States and its Western allies, ISIS is the new face of international terrorism.
The Obama administration called the brutal execution of American journalist James Foley by ISIS militants a “terrorist attack” and promised to capture his killers.
What is the U.S.’s strategy to defeat ISIS? CNN’s Jim Sciutto hosted a Facebook chat on Wednesday to address your questions on the issue.
Here are a few highlights:
Q: Lindsey – How likely is it for ISIS supporters to enter the U.S. through our southern border?
A: Jim Sciutto – Right now, US intelligence is focused principally on US nationality ISIS fighters traveling to and from Syria and Iraq to fight for ISIS. They tend to fly into and out of the country, though once US intel becomes aware of such fighters, they alert customs both in the US and overseas to take them aside for special screening. Douglas MacArthur McCain for instance, who was killed over the weekend fighting for ISIS, was on a US terror watchlist. Had he attempted to return to the US or travel to Europe, it is hoped that he would have been caught. But US officials acknowledge they are not aware of every ISIS fighter and there are holes in the system. For instance, another American who went to fight in Syria – a Florida man who blew up a truck bomb in May – managed to return to the US before heading back to Syria to carry out his suicide attack. And that freedom of movement is worrisome.
Q: Denis – Jim, why aren't the world powers meeting right now to decide how to obliterate these guys? Where are the NATO planes if nobody wants boots on the ground? Talk talk talk.... when will the world act?
A: Jim Sciutto – The Obama admin is now pushing western and regional allies to collaborate on a response to ISIS. In fact, the president will chair of meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss next steps. Several regional nations are clearly alarmed by ISIS's rise. ISIS, in fact, unites a number of nations who are usually at odds with each other, including the US, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others – bridging both the East-West divide and the Sunni-Shia divide. The question is, how well will this disparate group actually work together. And will Europe, which has been slow to react to Russian aggression in Ukraine, join the US in military action against ISIS?
Q: Mark – Does the US have any Intel on the ground with ISIS.
A: Jim Sciutto – They have some but I've received briefings from US intelligence officials who admit that because the US did not get involved on the ground in Syria – including arming and training rebel groups – it has severe intel gaps. When US forces withdrew from Iraq, the US also lost much of its intel ops there as well since the military often took the lead on intel gathering. This is an intel hole the US is seeking to close now.