It may take three years to defeat the Islamic State, according to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who was nevertheless certain that the terrorist group will be destroyed.
Hagel co-chaired a NATO meeting on how to defeat the group, also known as ISIL. “So we’re convinced that in the days ahead we have the ability to destroy ISIL,” he said during the meeting. “It may take a year, it may take two years, it may take three years. But we’re determined it has to happen.”
Hagel blamed the perception that Obama doesn’t have a strategy on “the politics of our country.”
“The president is totally committed; there is a strategy that is clear, becoming more clear by the day. And it really relies on a holistic approach to ISIL,” he said. “When we say holistic, we mean every aspect of this group, and I think this could become conceivably a model that can help us with Boko Haram, could help us with Shabaab, with other groups if we can do this successfully.”
Hagel’s comments came two days after President Obama had another tough press conference about the Islamic State and the situation in Syria and Iraq.
“Did you just say that the strategy is to destroy ISIS, or to simply contain them or push them back?” a reporter asked the president.
“Our objective is to make sure that ISIL is not an ongoing threat to the region,” Obama replied. “But what we can do is to make sure that the kind of systemic and broad-based aggression that we’ve seen out of ISIL that terrorizes primarily Muslims, Shia, Sunni — terrorizes Kurds, terrorizes not just Iraqis, but people throughout the region, that that is degraded to the point where it is no longer the kind of factor that we’ve seen it being over the last several months.”
As Vox’s Zack Beauchamp pointed out, “Obama is saying that he wants to, if not defeat ISIS, then roll it back to the point where it can’t threaten entire nation-states as it does now. This is his clearest statement yet of his administration’s objectives in Iraq and Syria. And it’s totally at odds with America’s actual policy.”
Hagel tried to clean that up. “There is no contain policy for ISIL,” he said. “They’re an ambitious, avowed genocidal, territorial-grabbing, caliphate-desiring, quasi-state within a regular army. And leaving them in some capacity intact anywhere would leave a cancer in place that will ultimately come back to haunt us. So there is no issue in our minds about our determination to build this coalition, go after this.”