By Kristina Wong - 07/09/14 04:15 PM EDT
Defense Secretary Chuck HagelChuck HagelThere's still time for another third-party option Hagel says NATO deployment could spark a new Cold War with Russia Overnight Defense: House panel unveils 5B defense spending bill MORE said Wednesday the Sunni fundamentalist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) poses a threat not just to the government in Baghdad, but to the United States as well.
"This country should not make any mistake on this, nor anyone in Congress — this is a threat to our country," Hagel said while meeting with troops at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia.
"This is a force that is sophisticated. It's dynamic, it's strong, it's organized, it's well-financed, it's competent, [ISIS]. And it is a threat to our allies all over the Middle East. It's a threat to Europe. It's a threat to every stabilized country on Earth, and it's a threat to us," Hagel said.
The administration has said that assessment would form the basis of next steps for the U.S. in Iraq, which is battling a terrorist takeover by ISIS.
"We'll have a further context of what recommendations they'll make. In the meantime, we're doing everything we can, as I said in those two general areas, protect our people and assist [Iraqi Security Forces] in their efforts to defeat [ISIS]," Hagel said.
In response to a threat to Baghdad, President Obama has ordered about 650 U.S. troops to Iraq, in addition to the 100 already there.
Those troops are helping to reinforce the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and other diplomatic facilities, as well as to conduct assessments on the security situation, which includes the flying of armed and unarmed drones.
"We are assisting in every way we can to help the Iraqi people defeat the brutal fundamentalists," Hagel said.
"[ISIS] may not appear to be an imminent threat to the United States. It is a threat to the United States. It is a threat, clear threat to our partners in that area, and it is imminent," he said.