On September 11, 2001, extremists committed to the destruction of the United States and our way of life brought their violent ideology to American soil with attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and a failed attack on the U.S. Capitol. These fanatics have not only struck the United States, but also Spain, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, and India. As a result, the battlefield of this global conflict stretches from Iraq and Afghanistan, across Europe, and to the United States.
This conflict is unlike previous wars our nation has fought. We face an enemy without borders, who adheres to no international laws and who refuses to negotiate. If we lose our determination now and ignore the pervasiveness of this threat, we will only pass on an even deadlier threat to future generations. We must vigilantly avoid subscribing to the same intolerance and hatred which consumes our enemies, but aggressively pursuing and thoroughly eliminating the terrorist threat is our nation’s only option to preserve our way of life.
It goes without saying that news that Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the 2001 terrorist attacks, was killed by U.S. military Special Forces on May 2, 2011, was welcome news here in the United States and across the globe and stands as a stark reminder to would-be terrorists that our nation will not rest until it brings to justice the many faces of terror. This victory struck a serious blow to al-Qaeda and those who wish to harm our nation.
As troops draw down, it is important that we remember the victims of terrorism and offer our gratitude to the men and women of our nation who have sacrificed so much to protect our freedoms. It is also important that we remain vigilant against those who would do us harm and act prudently in the coming, weeks, months, and years to guard against future acts of terrorism.
Another threat that has emerged in the Middle East is the offensive in northern and central Iraq, led by the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This group has gained control over large areas of Iraq and Syria with the goal of establishing an Islamic State. We have witnessed their brutality through the barbaric beheadings of American journalists and aid workers, and are aware of countless other despicable acts committed against the Iraqi and Syrian people. It is critical that we defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq to ensure their influence does not spread.
On September 10, 2014, President Obama announced a strategy to "degrade, and ultimately destroy" ISIS. This plan includes the United States leading and expanding a multilateral coalition that will undertake direct military action, provide support for partner ground forces in Iraq and Syria, gather and share intelligence and use financial measures to try to progressively shrink the geographic and political space, manpower, and financial resources available to ISIS. This coalition of over 60 countries have committed themselves to the goals of eliminating the threat posed by ISIS, and continue to contribute in various capacities to the effort to combat ISIS in the Middle East region and beyond.
As you may be aware, the U.S. has tailored its strategy to include increased airstrikes against ISIS inside Syria. The U.S. also deployed a small group of about 50 U.S. special operations soldiers into Syria to aide in the fight against ISIS. In Iraq, approximately 3,500 U.S. military personnel have deployed to advise and train Iraqi forces, gather intelligence on the ISIS, and secure U.S. personnel and facilities. In addition, the Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, announced that it will send a small expeditionary targeting force to assist Iraqi and Kurdish peshmerga forces that will help conduct raids, free hostages, and gather intelligence. In the coming months I expect Congress will debate the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) to fight ISIS.
I fully support the efforts of our military personnel to carry out the difficult task of eliminating the terrorist threat. I remain concerned about the impact that long deployments and dangerous conditions are having on American soldiers. I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure the United States military is provided with the resources it needs for protection and to improve the living conditions of military troops.