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Briefing

Islamic State 101: What the US is doing to counter the threat

Pentagon officials have a mantra when it comes to taking on the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL: The US military may be able to use American weapons to blunt the advance of IS, but any lasting change will have to come through political reform. 

Until then, says Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, “We should expect ISIL to regroup and stage new offenses.” 

1. How big a threat is IS to US interests?

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    US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (l.) speaks next to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey during a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, August 21, 2014.
    Yuri Gripas/Reuters
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“Oh, this is beyond anything that we’ve seen,” Hagel responded when asked that question last month. “They’re beyond just a terrorist group – they marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded.” 

The territorial ambitions of IS include taking over “Lebanon, the current state of Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Kuwait,” Dempsey added. “If they were to achieve that vision, it would fundamentally alter the face of the Middle East and create a security environment that would certainly threaten us in many ways.” 

“So,” Hagel added, “we must prepare for everything. And the only way you do that is that you take a cold, steely, hard look at it – and get ready.”

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