WASHINGTON, July 24, 2014 —
When the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant marched into Mosul, Iraq, whether the Iraqis could defend Baghdad was a critical first question, a senior Defense Department official said today.
Elissa Slotkin, performing the duties of the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, made her remarks before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.
“One of the early things that we saw as we got on the ground [was that there] was a stiffening of the Iraqi security forces in and around Baghdad to protect the capital, which we thought was critically important.”
Slotkin told the committee said she did not want to restrict her views and comments just to Iraq during the hearing. “I do believe we have a real regional problem on our hands,” she said.
Jordan has been “very particularly a focus” for the Defense Department, given its border area with Iraq, Slotkin said.
“This is part of the administration's attempt to try and create this counterterrorism partnership fund to shore up, particularly, the neighbors of Iraq and Syria,” she said.
“It is impossible to just look at the ISIL threat at Iraq only, because it's kind of like air in a balloon. You squeeze on one end, and it just goes somewhere else.”
Telling Senate members that the United States has a vital security interest to ensure Iraq and other countries don’t become a safe haven for terrorists, Slotkin said it’s a regional approach that’s needed. “We need a comprehensive approach, outside-in and inside-out,” she said.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)