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Politics

Senator Wants Terrorism Debate

NEW YORK — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said it would be “very healthy” for America if members of Congress spend about two weeks getting briefings, holding hearings, and having a real debate about authorizing the use of force against the Islamic State terrorist group.

The Pennsylvania Democrat said in an interview with The Associated Press that even if members believe — as he does — that President Barack Obama has the legal authority to mount an aerial bombing campaign against the terrorist group, it would be good for the country and could help his strategy to have a debate “and maybe have some votes.”

Ideally this should happen before the mid-term elections in November, he said, but it’s more likely to take place afterward.

Casey called on Congress and the media to suspend their “box score” daily assessments of the president’s strategy for a few months to get a clear picture of the impact of the U.S.-led bombing campaign against the Islamic State group, now backed by 60 countries.

Casey, who spent six years on the Foreign Relations Committee and is now a member of the National Security Working Group, said the administration also has to prepare the country for a counterterrorism campaign that is going to take years.

“I think we should not only say that, we should have a strategy that reflects that,” he said.

Casey said the United States demonstrated with al-Qaida that really effective counterterrorism takes a long time, “but eventually we will get them.”

“What if someone stood up a couple of months after 9/11 and said, ‘we assess it will take us until May 2011 to get Osama bin Laden’,” he asked. “Imagine the criticism and the condemnation of the policy.”

Casey said he believes the U.S. strategy against the Islamic State group, which controls a large swath of Syria and Iraq, “will rise and fall” on cutting off funding to the terrorists and whether Iraq establishes a national unity government that is really inclusive of disenchanted Sunnis.

He said he expects a future debate in Congress to focus on calls for American combat troops to fight the terrorist group — which he opposes.

Casey said countries in the region have “got to be willing, as part of a comprehensive strategy, over time and maybe gradually … to contribute to those forces” already fighting the Islamic State group.

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