HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The White House has responded to a growing threat from ISIS by hosting a summit on countering violent extremism, which focuses on ways to prevent individuals from joining extremist groups.
But as the ISIS reign of terror spreads across the Middle East, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard says the only way to successfully defeat them is to fully understand who the enemy is and what motivates them.
"They feel that it's actually a duty -- it's a religious duty for them to go and wage this war and this is why it's so critical for us to recognize this because in order for us to defeat that, we have to come up with a strategy that addresses both the military aspect and the ideological aspect," said the Hawai'i Democrat.
Representative Gabbard says she would not support sending in mass amounts of U.S. ground troops into the region at this time, but urges Congress instead to step up their efforts to support those who are already fighting -- like the Kurds, Jordanians and Egyptians.
"We have an important role to play in being able to empower and help them -- whether it's with intelligence, arms, ammunition and equipment -- and that's really the most powerful thing, is looking at the people who are on the ground there -- fighters from within the region from these different countries being very effective on the ground -- and us empowering them through these different ways, including air strikes to be able to defeat the enemy," said Rep. Gabbard.
Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran, says until the United States and other nations establish a concrete plan to address what motivates ISIS and their powerful religious recruitment strategy, they will continue to gain strength in the region.
"We look back at what happened in Iraq, you can go in with hundreds of thousands of troops you can kill lots of these bad guys but unless you defeat that ideology you're going to continue to see more and more people fueled by that same ideology stepping up and replacing them," said Gabbard.
For his part, President Obama has rejected the notion that groups like ISIS are operating from a religious foundation. Instead, during closing remarks Wednesday at the White House's summit on countering violent extremism, Obama labeled ISIS simply as terrorists.
"We must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie, nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders; they're terrorists. And we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam," said Obama.
The President said terrorist organizations are desperate for legitimacy and that's why they portray themselves as holy warriors, in order to recruit members. During his address, Obama highlighted four key areas to countering extremism and propaganda including; confronting extremist ideology, addressing the economic and political grievances in countries that terrorist groups exploit, and stepping up community outreach to those who are vulnerable.
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