Hillary Clinton said the US will go after Islamic State and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the same way it had focussed on defeating al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden if she is elected as the next president.
“We have to defeat ISIS. That is my highest counterterrorism goal and we have got to do it with air power. We have got to do it with much more support for the Arabs and the Kurds who will fight on the ground against ISIS. We have to squeeze them by continuing to support the Iraqi military,” Democratic presidential candidate Clinton said in New York on Wednesday.
A ‘commander in chief’ forum, hosted by NBC on the decommissioned USS Intrepid which is now a floating museum, brought Clinton, 68, and her Republican rival Donald Trump, 70, together just weeks before they square off at the first presidential debate on September 26.
While Clinton and Trump did not come face to face at the forum, they were questioned one after the other by Today show anchor Matt Lauer, who moderated the forum.
Clinton vowed that under her presidency, she will not send ground troops into war-ravaged Iraq or Syria, but said the White House will ensure that the Iraqi military has all the support, including special forces, surveillance, intelligence, reconnaissance help.
“They are not going to get ground troops. We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again and we are not putting ground troops into Syria. We are going to defeat ISIS without committing American ground troops. So those are the kinds of decisions we have to make on a case-by-case basis,” Clinton said as she assured that it is in America’s national security interest to defeat IS.
“I intend to make that happen. And as part of it, we are going after Baghdadi, the leader, because it will help us focus our attention, just like going after bin Laden helped us focus our attention in the fight against al-Qaeda in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre,” she added.
On the threat of terror attacks on the US soil, Clinton said she will do “everything in my power” to ensure Americans are safer on the streets of San Bernardino or Boston at the end of her presidency than they are today.
She, however, cautioned that achieving this result will be a huge challenge.
“We have got to have an intelligence surge. We have got to get a lot more cooperation out of Europe, out of the Middle East. We have to do a better job of not only collecting and analysing the intelligence we do have, but distributing it much more quickly down the ladder to state and local law enforcement,” Clinton said.
She also said the US will have to do a better job combating ISIS online, where they recruit and radicalise and the nation will have to take the support of technology giants in Silicon Valley in disrupting the terror group’s online plans.
“ I do not think we are doing as much as we can. We need to work with Silicon Valley. We need to work with our experts in our government. We have got to disrupt, we have got to take them on in the arena of ideas that, unfortunately, pollute and capture the minds of vulnerable people. So we need to wage this war against ISIS from the air, on the ground and online, in cyberspace,” Clinton said.
Making strong case for gun reforms to tackle homegrown threats, Clinton said there is need to pass a law prohibiting people on the terrorist watch list from being able to buy a gun in the US.
She said the solution does not lie in insulting Muslim- American families but in working with America’s Muslim partners to defeat ISIS.
“Going after American-Muslims, defaming a Gold Star family, the family of Captain Khan, making it more difficult for us to have a coalition with Muslim majority nations is not going to help us to succeed in defeating ISIS and protecting our American homeland,” she said, a reference to Trump’s remarks against Humayun Khan, who lost his life while in Iraq for the US military.