In the aftermath of the brutal execution video showing a Jordanian pilot who was set on fire by ISIS, President Barack Obama’s nominee for Defense Secretary will have to answer for the White House strategy for combating the terrorist group at his confirmation hearing Wednesday morning.
The nominee, Ashton Carter, submitted more than 300 written answers to a questionnaire requested by the Senate Armed Services Committee in advance of the hearing.
Asked what the president means when he states his goal is to “ultimately destroy ISIL,” Carter responded, “I believe that ISIL must no longer be a threat to Iraq, the region, the United States, and our partners,” according to the questionnaire obtained by CNN.
But in a separate answer to the committee, Carter acknowledged the mission to defeat ISIS, could last well beyond the end of Obama’s time in office. “The U.S. is at the beginning of what could be a long campaign,” Carter wrote in the questionnaire.
On another thorny subject related to ISIS, Carter was asked what the future holds for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. In the past, the President has called for Assad to step aside. But the campaign against ISIS has complicated that goal for the administration as Assad’s forces are also battling terrorist elements inside Syria.
Carter answered that the more critical problem at the moment in Syria is ISIS. “As the President has said, Assad has lost legitimacy and cannot be a part of the long-term future of Syria. However, the most immediate threat to U.S. national interests is ISIL – and there is no sustainable solution in Syria without addressing the threat of ISIL,” he wrote.
Another question pressed Carter on recent reports that ISIS is attempting to gain a foothold in Afghanistan, where the U.S. is drawing down its forces as part of a withdrawal plan that is set to be completed in 2016. Carter only said he is aware of the reports. But he indicated he would press the White House to slow that drawdown if he believes such a move is necessary.
“If security conditions on the ground in Afghanistan degrade in 2016, would you consider recommending to the President revisions to the size and pace of the drawdown plan announced by the President in order to adequately address those security conditions,” Carter is asked.
Carter’s one word response: “Yes.”