The United States needs Europe to take bolder action to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), said U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
During his first public comments since Friday’s coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris for which ISIS has claimed responsibility, Carter noted that the violent tragedy had “galvanized” France into making bolder moves against ISIS and enhancing cooperation with the United States, adding that he hopes it would have the same effect on other European allies.
The Paris attacks have “had the effect of galvanizing our cooperation with France, and that’s one of the things we’ve been doing over the weekend, strengthening our intelligence cooperation with them,” said the Pentagon chief at the forum Monday hosted by the Wall Street Journal.
“We’re looking to do more. We’re looking for every opportunity we can to get in there and go at ISIL,” he added. “But… We need others to get in the game as well. So I’m hoping that this tragedy has the effect of galvanizing others as it has galvanized the French, and really throughout Europe. Because, remember, Europe has been participating, in part, in operations against ISIL, but not notably, most of them in Syria so far.”
He indicated that Europe needs to increase defense spending and step up its operations against ISIS.
Carter said that, in his judgment, Europe is not “spending enough in general on their defense, and that’s important.”
“They need to get in the game also. They share civilized values with us. They share a history with us,” he continued. “And they need to get in the game of protecting our people from this kind of thing.”
In claiming responsibility for the attacks, ISIS said they were in retaliation for France’s involvement in the U.S.-led air campaign in Iraq and Syria.
U.S. efforts against ISIS include strikes on oil infrastructure that the group uses to generate at least $1 million daily in illicit revenue, operations against well-known members, as well as identifying and assisting capable and motivated forces to fight the terrorists on the ground, said Carter.
“This is an enemy that needs to be defeated — will be defeated,” he continued, referring to ISIS. “[The jihadist group] stands for the opposite of everything that we stand for and civilized people stand for.”
Carter suggested that ISIS’s capability to carry out attacks is greater in Europe than in the United States, noting that Europe’s geographic location makes it easier for ISIS to move people in.
“We don’t have some of the population that has longstanding terrorist inclinations that are in some of the European countries,” he added.
The “most imminent” ISIS-linked threat to the United States comes form “lone wolf”-style attacks by individuals, Carter went on to say.
He also admitted that ISIS is better at avoiding detection by Western intelligence officials then previously thought, adding that the U.S. has to employ intelligence and surveillance methods to disrupt the jihadist group given its extensive use of social media.
ISIS represents “a new phenomenon and I’m not the first one to say this, but, you know, al Qaeda was the first Internet terrorist group.”
“So just like, you know, people are amazed at how things go viral and crazes happen, and so forth. In the terrorist space, this has turned out to be a very ugly capability for people like [ISIS members] to have,” he added. “Now we’re trying to climb on top of that in every way that we possibly can. There’s no question that it represents a new phenomenon.”
The Jerusalem Post notes that the U.S. government collection of American’s data has sparked privacy concerns, especially in light of the massive program to collect and store phone records that was disclosed by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.
“We’re trying to protect our country and protect our people and we need to be reasonable about that,” Carter told the forum Monday. “We need to find a way that is consistent with a free and open Internet but which also allows us as public officials to protect our people.”