WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee warns that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants are just “one plane ticket” away from coming to the United States.
Speaking to NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., called ISIS a “very real threat” to the U.S. following the beheading of American journalist James Foley.
“One of the problems is it’s gone unabated for nearly two years, and that draws people from Britain to across Europe, and even the United States, to go and join the fight. They see that as a winning ideology, a winning strategy, and they want to be a part of it. And that’s what makes it so dangerous,” Rogers told NBC News. “They are one plane ticket away from U.S. shores. And that’s why we’re so concerned about it.”
Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told The Associated Press that there is no sign so far that ISIS militants are engaged in “active plotting against the homeland.” Rogers, however, disputes that notion.
“The very fight between al Qaeda that allowed ISIS to separate from al Qaeda in Syria was the fact that they wanted to conduct Western-style operations,” Rogers explained to “Meet the Press.” “Zawahiri, the leader of al Qaeda, said, ‘No, we want you to focus on Syria.’ That’s what started the fight. This notion that they were too barbaric is almost laughable given that al Qaeda flew airplanes and slaughtered 3,000 people on 9/11.”
Rogers warns that the U.S. is “not configured” to keeping ISIS threats out.
“The United States intelligence services and Department of Defense and administrative policy is not configured in a way to continue a tempo that allows disruption,” Rogers stated. “The reason ISIS is so successful is there was nothing deterring them for years. So they recruited, they financed, they trained. All of that was happening.”
Rogers added that President Barack Obama is going to have to “change his policy” in order for the U.S. to combat ISIS.
“This is an opportunity for the president to take a step back, change his presidential guidance on how we disrupt terrorism around the world, including al Qaeda, that has been slowing down,” Rogers told NBC News. “We have missed dozens and dozens of opportunities to take really bad people off the battlefield in the … last two years.”
Other Republicans also called on the president to step up to ISIS. Speaking to CBS News, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., called on Obama to take steps to eliminate ISIS.
“A containment strategy is not going to cut it,” Ayotte told “Face the Nation.” “We need a strategy that’s going to expand the airstrikes, support the Kurds further…[and] more support and enhancement for the moderate opposition in Syria to deal with the sanctuaries in Syria. We have to do that if we want to defeat ISIS.”
Such a strategy, “starts with presidential leadership, but as a member of Congress I think we have a responsibility to say that we’re going to put the protection of this nation first beyond partisan divide.”
Ayotte continued: “There’s a disconnect with sequester from the threats we face around the world and the resources we are going to need to fight this threat.”
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., joined his Republican colleague in urging the president to form a strategy to “finish ISIS off.”
“What I want to hear from the president is that he has a strategy to finish ISIS off, to defeat ISIS,” Ryan said. “I don’t want to be an armchair general and tell you how this needs to be done, but I would reference the fact that [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin] Dempsey did say that to do this correctly that Syria is going to have to be part of this equation.”
So far, the Obama administration has restricted its military action against the militants to specific operations within Iraq, but concerns have increased as ISIS extended its reach, taking control of a swath of land stretching from Syria across the border and deep into western and northern Iraq.
The group took over Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, in June, and has since declared an Islamic state, or caliphate, in territory under its control in Iraq and Syria.