‘Who Knows?’: Eliot Engel Frets About ISIS Overrunning Syrian Opposition

Congressman Eliot Engel. (Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Congressman Eliot Engel. (Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images) Jim

Congressman Eliot Engel has backed the president’s strategy of training and arming Syrian rebels to combat the growing threat of the Islamic State, but the ranking member of the foreign affairs committee fears that the radical organization could win out in the region.

“Well, they better be. And if they’re not, then we’re in for a lot of trouble,” Mr. Engel told the Observer this morning when asked if the Middle Eastern coalition the United States is assembling will be enough to stop ISIS.

“None of us wants boots on the ground, American boots on the ground. If they were to be totally overrun, I think–I’m not a military strategist–but I certainly think that we cannot allow ISIL to get stronger and bigger,” he added, referring to an alternative name for ISIS.

Mr. Engel, like many Democrats and Republicans in Congress, is opposed to deploying American troops to combat ISIS, a radical Islamist organization that seized a large swath of territory in Iraq and Syria this summer. Fearing another foreign entanglement akin to the Iraq War, Mr. Engel has nevertheless sounded the alarm about ISIS, warning that the group could inflict serious harm on American soil.

There is no evidence yet that ISIS is plotting an attack on America, according to government officials, but the speed at which the militants have been able to overrun Iraqi and Syrian forces startled the international community. Mr. Obama recently authorized airstrikes on ISIS, but it’s not clear that the current strategy will be successful in the long-term–a reality Mr. Engel hinted at today.

“I think we need to take it one step at a time. I don’t think we can foresee a year from now, six months from now [what will happen],” Mr. Engel said. “This to me seems like the best plan given all the circumstances. Whether it will work or not, I think it will, I hope it will but, you know, who knows?”

The threat of ISIS, he said, is “something the civilized world has to come to grips with.”

‘Who Knows?’: Eliot Engel Frets About ISIS Overrunning Syrian Opposition