[[{"fid":"134","view_mode":"full","fields":{"format":"full"},"type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"2 10 16 Ranking Member Engel Remarks on ISIS","height":"380","width":"640","class":"media-element file-full"},"link_text":null}]]


- As Delivered - 

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following remarks at a full Committee hearing on the evolving threat of ISIS in the Middle East and beyond:

“Well thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.  And to our witness: welcome to the Foreign Affairs Committee, Special Envoy McGurk.  Brett, I’ve been impressed for many years by your record of service to our country.  I want to thank you for it.  You’ve notched another remarkable achievement working to negotiate the release of five American prisoners who were wrongly held by Iran.  And I join the families of these men and with all Americans in thanking you for your efforts.

“Today, we’re glad to hear from you about the fight against ISIS and the dynamic threat the group poses—the way the organization is adapting to challenges and growing.

“The United States has spearheaded a coalition of 66 partners with the goal of destroying ISIS.  Different countries play different roles: cutting off ISIS from its finances, stopping the flow of foreign fighters, providing humanitarian support, countering ISIS propaganda, joining in airstrikes, building capacity of fighters on the ground.  This shared burden prevents the United States from being drawn into another long war.  We must defeat ISIS, but we cannot—and should not—do it alone. 

“Between 10,000 coalition airstrikes and the relentless press of local ground forces, we’ve seen some progress.  From Kobani to Mount Sinjar to Tikrit to Ramadi, ISIS has lost a quarter of the populated territory it once held in Iraq and Syria. 

“And yet the reality across the region remains grim.  Syrians continue to flee the Assad regime in droves.  Assad has been given another lifeline by Russia’s bombardment of civilian areas—attacks that continue to kill women and children.  And ISIS latches onto these deplorable actions to use for recruitment and propaganda.

“Iraq has also had to rely on Shia militants loyal—Shia militias loyal to Iran.  As a result, Iraq remains divided along sectarian lines as Iran gains even greater influence in Iraq.  This could leave the region with the same cleavages that allowed ISIS to thrive in the first place.  If we do not address the political void and sectarian tensions, there will be no long-term stability.

“The same themes are already playing out in Libya and Yemen.  Terrorists love a vacuum.  In the absence of real stability, rule of law, and effective government, ISIS will fill the void.  Focusing on long-running tensions in these countries will go a long way toward denying ISIS safe haven.

“So today I hope we can have a good discussion on how the United States should continue responding to the threat.  How can we stem the growth of ISIS?  How do we stay one step ahead of them?

“Sometimes, unfortunately, it seems as if we’re only halfheartedly going after ISIS, and halfheartedly helping the Free Syria Army and others on the ground.  As you know for many years—three or four years—I have been calling on aiding the Free Syria Army.  And I believe that when we didn’t aid them, they withered on the vine and ISIS moved into the void.

“I hope that we will be part of a robust campaign, not a tentative one, not one that seems like we’re dragging ourselves in.  But a robust campaign to destroy ISIS and get rid of Assad.  I understand that we cannot do it alone, nor should we.  And we need our Arab partners and our Middle East partners and other partners on the ground—the Kurds and others—to help.  But I think we have to lead, and I think it’s important that we do that.  So I look forward to hearing from our witness on these questions and others, and I’m glad that Congress is staying engaged on this issue in various ways. 

“Another step we can take is to push for a robust foreign affairs budget.  The President sent his budget request to Congress yesterday, and I hope that we, on this Committee, will make all the needed investments to meet these challenges and all our challenges abroad.

“I hope that we will soon take up an Authorization for the Use of Military Force which gives the President what he needs to grapple with this threat without running the risk of another full-scale, open-ended commitment of American forces in the Middle East.  If we’re asking American service members to risk their lives in the fight against ISIS, we should at the very least, I believe, do our job as well. 

“So thank you again, Mr. McGurk.  Thank you Mr. Chairman.  I yield back.”