Secretary of Defense vows to speed up efforts to defeat ISIS

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the U.S. is building momentum against ISIS, while some skeptical lawmakers said progress is too slow to keep up with them.

The leader of the Pentagon went again before a Congressional Committee, defending his new plans in this difficult war.

In the month and a half since Carter last appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain said ISIS has caused or inspired hundreds of deaths: a Russian Airliner was downed over Egypt, a bombing in Beirut, the Paris attacks and now the San Bernardino shootings.

"In short, the threat is growing and evolving faster than the administration’s efforts to counter it," McCain said.

Carter said even though ISIS isn’t contained, he still thinks President Obama’s strategy is working and expanding.

He opened the possibility that U.S. Military advisers could accompany Iraqi forces on the ground as they look to retake Ramadi from ISIS, with Apache Helicopters helping from the air.

"The U.S. is prepared to assist Iraqi army with additional unique capabilities to help them finish the job," Carter said.

Republican Senators on the panel challenged U.S. policy. They say it’s "drifting" and they want faster action.

"Are we going to be more aggressive going after these assets going forward?" asked Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.

To which Carter replied, "Yes: We’ll be more aggressive.  What makes it possible is intelligence."

Carter said Congress will have to help. He’s asking lawmakers to free up $116 million to help U.S. backed forces and emphasizing that other countries need to contribute more special forces, aircraft, training and weapons.

"The international community — including allies and the coalition — has to step up before another attack like Paris," he said. 

South Carolina Senator and presidential candidate Lindsey Graham is pushing for an even stronger and bigger response and got some pushback from his colleagues.

He shot back, "if you don’t like what this president or a future president does to fight ISIS, defund it. That is the power Congress has." 

But he said he is committed to doing what it takes to stop ISIS.

Categories: KUSI