ISIS is neither Islamic nor a state, says Hillary Clinton

"We took decisive action against the threat of violent extremism," Hillary Clinton says of her time as secretary of state.

Story highlights

  • In Canada appearance, Hillary Clinton touts her work to fight "violent extremism"
  • The new line comes as some question the Obama administration's ISIS response
  • Clinton calls military action against ISIS "essential" but "not sufficient alone"
Hillary Clinton used an appearance in Ottawa, Ontario, on Monday to talk up the work she did to combat "violent extremism" during her time as secretary of state.
"We took decisive action against the threat of violent extremism," Clinton said of her four years as America's top diplomat, "certainly most practically from Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's syndicate of terror."
The line is new for Clinton and comes at a time that some have raised questions whether the Obama administration underestimated ISIS, a terrorist group that has swept into power in areas of Syria and Iraq. President Barack Obama decided during his first term not to help train and arm rebels in Syria, despite urging from Clinton and other top advisers. In hindsight, some of those advisers say not arming Syrian rebels helped lead to the rise of ISIS.
Last month, Obama authorized airstrikes against the terrorist group and training for Syrian rebels. The United States was joined by a coalition of countries, including Arab states, and Clinton backed the action.
On Monday, the former secretary of state called dealing with ISIS a "long-term struggle" in which military action is essential.
The former first lady also refused to call the group by the name it calls itself: the Islamic State.
"Whether you call them ISIS or ISIL, I refuse to call them the Islamic State, because they are neither Islamic or a state," Clinton said. "Whatever you call them, I think we can agree that the threat is real."
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Clinton justified military action against ISIS, but not against other terrorist groups, because ISIS' "kind of jihadist extremism is expansionary."
"They believe that it is part of their mission to launch attacks, to infiltrate through foreign fighters into Western societies," Clinton said. "If that were not the case, then we could have a different debate. I think the evidence is convincing, at least to me, that this is a group that will try to pick up where al Qaeda in Afghanistan left off."
Clinton later argued that groups like Al-Shabaab or Boko Haram "have not yet evidenced a commitment to expanding their reach the way that this ISIL group has. So, therefore, I think military action is critical."
But military action is "not sufficient alone."
"There has to be more," Clinton said. "You have to combat them on social media, you have to do more to enlist Arab support ... to demonstrate this is not some sort of an American/Western effort and it involves significant Arab participation."
ISIS has quickly gained sizable attention outside the Middle East because it has beheaded a number of Western aid workers and journalists.
Clinton touted what the Obama administration did to stop al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
"What we were able to do at great cost," Clinton said, "was to ferret out and decapitate the leadership of al Qaeda, (which) severely undermined their capacity, as an organization, continues to threaten the West."