Bob Goodlatte: Confronting the ISIL threat
The United States is a symbol of liberty across the globe. We enjoy freedoms like no other nation in the world, and we must remain ever vigilant against threats from aggressive terrorist groups that would seek to destroy our very way of life, harm our citizens at home and abroad, or attack our allies.
The rapid expansion of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) not only poses a serious threat to a region that is no stranger to turmoil, but also to every nation, including the United States, that rejects their brutality and extreme ideology. A CIA assessment estimates that ISIL has between 20,000 to more than 30,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria, including many American citizens. In recent months, ISIL has carved a path of terror, taking control of a growing territory and killing innocent civilians. They have even launched an aggressive social media campaign to spread their vitriol and recruit radicals to join their ranks. Like all Americans, I was appalled by the recently released series of horrific videos by ISIL showing the barbaric executions of several hostages, including American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
Atrocious acts of terror against Americans and our allies cannot, and will not, be tolerated. By weakening terrorist networks overseas, we reduce the likelihood that they will be able to successfully launch additional attacks on U.S. soil. As ISIL gains strength and momentum in both Iraq and Syria, it is clear we must work to eradicate ISIL. Thus far, the international community has shown their support, and our allies are joining us in confronting the threat of ISIL. I hope we continue to build this coalition and that the international community will stand firm together against ISIL.
In August, the United States began military air strikes against ISIL in northern Iraq and humanitarian airdrops of food and water to vulnerable communities and religious minorities targeted by ISIL fighters. However, we must build off of these actions to defeat and dismantle ISIL.
On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives, with my support, passed legislation that included a provision authorizing the Department of Defense to train and equip vetted elements of the moderate Syrian opposition. It was also approved by the Senate. This bipartisan amendment gives our military the tools they need to act and provides Congress with necessary oversight of the plan. However, this must be part of a long term strategy to weed out the ISIL threat. The White House cannot waver in this mission. It is incumbent that the President follows through with his actions and listens to his military advisors on implementing a forward strategy and on addressing the security of the United States so that those who mean to do us harm are stopped from entering this country, including American citizens who have joined these groups.
The U.S. has sacrificed far too much and far too many lives in the fight against terrorism to simply turn a blind eye now or to fail to join our allies to stop ISIL. I will continue to closely monitor the situation and carefully consider any further proposals put forth in the fight to destroy ISIL.