WASHINGTON, D.C. (NBC NEWS) — In a matter of months, the terror group ISIS has risen from an obscure al-Qaeda offshoot to one of the greatest emerging threats against the United States. The execution this week of American photojournalist James Foley — and the threat to execute another reporter — has shown Americans the brutality that has become the terror groups’ signature as it rolled over large portions of Iraq.
Defense secretary Chuck Hagel says the ISIS threat is beyond anything we’ve seen. The execution of Foley has changed Washington’s focus on the terror group.
“They are an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else,” said Hagel.
With U.S. air support, Iraqis are gaining back ground, but America’s top general insists it will take more than bombs to crush ISIS.
“This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision and which will eventually have to be defeated,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Marty Dempsey.
“I don’t think we have seen a more significant threat to American security since the early days of 9/11,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California.
ISIS is now threatening to execute a second American journalist — Miami-based writer Steven Sotloff — and calling for attacks on other American targets. It’s a fight the Obama White House doesn’t want — but can’t ignore.
“Mr. Obama can’t use the narrative anymore that he’s ending two wars on his watch,” said Michael O’Hanlon, with Brookings Institution. “We’re going to have to settle in for a decade-long struggle.”
The United States is now getting a first bitter taste of the terror Iraqis are fleeing by the hundreds of thousands, an ISIS threat that’s growing stronger. While the president promises there will be no U.S. boots on the ground in Iraq, the State Department has asked for 300 more troops to secure U.S. facilities there.