National security leaders talk about ISIS like a chronic illness in the global body politic

The Daily Beast reports: Officially, the Obama administration is still committed to defeating ISIS. But at the annual gathering of national security chiefs in Aspen, no one was talking about beating the terror army and its adherents. Instead, grim resignation and dark warnings of a long hard fight to come dominated the discussion, with every official predicting a global rise in terror attacks, including in the United States.

“Do we expect more attacks? Regrettably we do, both in Europe and the U.S.,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee.

While some here held out hope for a military triumph over ISIS in Iraq and Syria, they acknowledged that any such advances would represent the first stage in a years-long battle against a group that’s already spread to unstable parts of the Mideast, Africa, and Southeast Asia—and already inspired attacks from Paris to San Bernardino, Orlando to Istanbul.

“If we destroy [ISIS] in Syria and Iraq so they don’t have a territory anymore, of course that reduces their influence. But the virtual caliphate has not been destroyed,” said European Union Counterterrorist Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove in an interview, referring to ISIS’s prodigious online presence. “The capacity to inspire in the west will remain for some time.”

It was a far cry from earlier gatherings of the Aspen Security Forum, where officials and experts hailed the killing of al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden as a death blow to Islamic extremism. And it was a markedly different tone from President Obama’s statements of just a few months ago, when he redoubled his commitment to “defeat [ISIS] and to eliminate the scourge of this barbaric terrorism that’s been taking place around the world.”

In contrast, national security officials at Aspen didn’t really speak of ISIS as an enemy that could be taken out. They talked about the terror group like a long-term problem to be managed—a chronic illness in the global body politic. [Continue reading…]

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