Pentagon: Islamic State militants hurt by US airstrikes, will regroup, stage new offensive
WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. airstrikes have helped Iraqi and Kurdish forces regain their footing in Iraq, but the well-resourced Islamic State militants can be expected to regroup and stage a new offensive, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.
Speaking alongside Hagel at a Pentagon news conference, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey said that although the Islamic State group can be contained it cannot be defeated without attacking it in Syria.
Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this would not necessarily require airstrikes by the U.S., although Hagel appeared to leave open that possibility by telling reporters, “We’re looking at all options.”
Citing the recapture this week of the Mosul Dam that had been in Islamic State militants’ hands, Hagel credited U.S. bombing as well as U.S. arms supplies to Iraqi and Kurdish forces and international humanitarian assistance to the thousands of Iraqis displaced across northern Iraq.
“Overall, these operations have stalled ISIL’s momentum and enabled Iraqi and Kurdish forces to regain their footing and take the initiative,” Hagel said, using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State group that is an outgrowth of al-Qaida.
Foley case highlights wrenching debate over whether governments should pay ransom for hostages
WASHINGTON (AP) - The beheading of freelance journalist James Foley has forced a new debate between the longtime U.S. and British refusal to negotiate with terrorists, and Europe and the Persian Gulf’s increasing willingness to pay ransoms in a desperate attempt to free citizens. The dilemma: How to save the lives of captives without financing terror groups and encouraging more kidnappings.
By paying ransoms, governments in the Mideast and Europe have become some of the biggest financiers of terror groups. By refusing to do likewise, the U.S. and Great Britain are in the thankless position of putting their own citizens at a disadvantage.
Foley’s captors, the Islamic State militants, had for months demanded $132.5 million (100 million Euros) from his parents and political concessions from Washington. They got neither, and the 40-year-old freelance journalist from New Hampshire was savagely beheaded within the last week inside Syria, where he had been held since his disappearance in November 2012.
Extremists called his death a revenge killing for the 90 U.S. airstrikes, as of Thursday, that have been launched against Islamic State militants in northern Iraq since Aug. 8. But the ransom demands began late last year, even before the Islamic State - one of the world’s most financially thriving extremist groups - had begun its brutal march across much of western and northern Iraq.
“They don’t need to do this for money,” said Matthew Levitt, a counter-terror expert at the Washington Institute think-tank. “When you ask for $132 million, for the release of one person, that suggests that you’re either trying to make a point … or you don’t really need the money.”
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