WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following statement at a committee hearing about progress combating ISIS:
“Thank you Mr. Chairman. Ambassador, thank you. Thank you for your good work. Mr. Chairman thank you for calling this important hearing on the fight against ISIS.
“Though our military operation against ISIS is focused on the Middle East, the threat posed by this terrorist group spans the globe. Recent reports indicate that ISIS is recruiting more than 1,000 foreign fighters every month.
“These fighters are streaming into Syria and Iraq from Europe, North Africa, the Gulf, the U.S., and other nations. Most troubling, some of them are returning to their home countries, armed with the knowledge of how to sow terror.
“Just as the threat spans the globe, so must the coalition be responding to this threat. And the good news is more than 60 countries have joined the anti-ISIS coalition. Together, we’re cracking down on terrorist financing, stemming the flow of foreign fighters, discrediting ISIS’s false and violent ideology, providing military support to our partners, and addressing the grave humanitarian crisis that’s left hundreds of thousands without homes or families.
“And a significant number, including several European countries, Australia, Canada, and a number of regional partners, have worked alongside the U.S. military to target ISIS and impede its growth.
“We’re making progress. But we are nowhere near to stamping out this threat. And today I hope we can discuss what strategy will get us closer to that goal.
“I want to just say, Mr. Ambassador, there are a few areas I think are especially critical.
“Firstly, while we need a global coalition, it’s critical that we engage closely with local partners—Iraqi and Syrian, Arab and Kurd. Such cooperation is essential to stop the spread of ISIS, and to ensure that the U.S. does not bear a disproportionate share of the burden in this fight.
“For years I’ve supported a program to train and equip the moderate Syrian opposition, which can serve as boots on the ground in Syria. Congress voted overwhelmingly to get this program off the ground, and I look forward to hearing about the status of this effort.
“Secondly, we need to state clearly that there is no future for Assad in Syria, and seeing Assad go remains a top priority, and that the interests and goals of the United States simply don’t align with Assad or with Iran.
“Assad is a brutal dictator, responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Syrians. We all saw the horrific pictures smuggled out of Damascus by Ceasar, the photographer, the Syrian army defector.
“Assad is also a magnet for extremism. The conflict in Syria and Iraq will never end as long as he remains in power, courtesy of Iran and its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah.
“Lastly, we must determine and understand that the U.S. plays a unique role in this situation. Our capabilities are unmatched.
“I understand that the American people are uneasy about getting more involved in another conflict halfway around the globe. I feel the same way. We’re tired of war. We want to bring our men and women home. This is another reason why working with local partners is so important; it will help prevent future escalation of American involvement.
“But we must not forget that in so many places around the world, freedom, dignity, and justice are under constant attack. And I firmly believe if the U.S. does not lead the way as a champion of these values, no one else will. We believe in a world in which all people are free to decide their own futures, and there are times when defending and advancing that vision requires difficult choices and sacrifice. That’s what makes the United States the world’s one indispensable nation.
“We didn’t ask for this conflict. But we cannot ignore it.
“So I look forward to hearing the questions and the answers and the testimony.”
Watch Rep. Engel's opening statement here