Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), a member of the National Security Working Group and former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs released a statement following President Obama’s address to the nation from the Oval Office on ISIS and terrorism:
“Tonight President Obama provided the nation with an important update on the shootings in San Bernardino and our fight to defeat ISIS. Keeping America safe must be our first priority. Our military and security professionals are to be commended for the considerable work they’ve done over the last year to combat ISIS and protect the homeland. Defeating ISIS requires a comprehensive approach that kills terrorists, cuts off ISIS’ financing and rolls back their hold on territories in Iraq and Syria. Since August of 2014 the coalition, that the U.S. military has led, has launched more than 8,500 airstrikes against ISIS targets and has supported local forces battling ISIS while leveraging our special operations forces and the full force of our intelligence capabilities to degrade the terrorists. According to the Defense Department, the work of our women and men in the military has reduced ISIS’ hold on territory in Iraq and Syria by 25%, taken out thousands of ISIS terrorists and blunted ISIS’ finances. Recent news reports indicate that the situation in ISIS held territories is increasingly dire- basic services are not being provided and residents live in a constant state of fear.
"While the heroic work of our military and security professionals has made progress over the last year, there’s much more the Administration and Congress can do to protect our homeland and intensify efforts against ISIS. Members of Congress cannot continue to engage in oversight by sound bite or broad condemnations without proposing specific steps. Simply put, Congress has to step up. I’ve repeatedly called for the Senate to set aside a substantial amount of floor time to debate an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS. This floor debate and subsequent hearings could provide an opportunity for a rigorous review and examination of our strategy. I’ll continue to press the Administration, as I have since the summer of 2014, to take aggressive action on ISIS’ financing. The Administration has to step up its targeting of ISIS’ financiers and the countries that allow those financiers safe haven. I’ll also continue to press for the passage of my bipartisan legislation, the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act, which would limit ISIS’ ability to profit from the black market sale of stolen antiquities. The Administration also needs to accelerate the training and equipping of local forces to combat ISIS. During a speech on the Senate floor last month I proposed that Congress consider establishing a bipartisan group to examine our policy in Syria and against ISIS, similar to what was done in 2006 regarding the conflict in Iraq. I continue to believe, as President Obama has said, that a large deployment of U.S. ground forces would be the wrong step. The most direct path to a durable solution is one in which Sunni Arab and Kurdish forces take the fight to ISIS on the ground. A large deployment of U.S. ground forces would result in a coalition of coat holders- one where countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan, who have the most at stake in the fight against ISIS, are watching as U.S. troops bear the brunt of the fight. Gulf countries need to do more to combat ISIS financial networks, including investigating and prosecuting their citizens who engage in terrorism financing.
"At home, there are additional steps we can take to increase security. We have to guarantee the strongest possible security screening for anyone entering the country so they don’t aid and abet terrorists. Last week in a letter to Majority Leader McConnell, I called for the Senate to move quickly to strengthen the Visa Waiver program and close the loophole that allows those on the terrorist watch-list to purchase firearms. Additionally, Congress should move to ban military-style weapons, limit clip and magazine sizes and strengthen background checks. The Senate also has to end the delay on confirming key Administration officials that are vital to homeland security and the fight against ISIS . For example, the nominee to become Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Financial Intelligence, Adam Szubin, has been waiting for Senate confirmation since April 20 – more than 220 days. As Under Secretary, Szubin would lead the team responsible for the investigation and sanction of ISIS terrorists, facilitators, and financiers. Cutting off ISIS’s financial network is an essential component of our strategy, and we should have a vote to confirm Szubin before the end of the year.
"Destroying ISIS and protecting our homeland is a vital task that Congress has an opportunity to play a constructive role in. A serious, sober and bipartisan approach to this challenge can play a substantial role in increasing safety at home and ultimately destroying ISIS. While tonight’s address by President Obama is a welcome update, it is not sufficient by itself. The Administration must engage in an effort over the next weeks and months to continually update, inform and explain their strategy against ISIS to the American people."