Tom Cotton: ‘We have to win on offense’

Newly-inaugurated Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) wants the U.S. to escalate its combat mission against ISIS, calling on American forces to get “on the offense” in combating Islamic terrorism around the world.

Cotton, an Army combat veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, called for the deployment of additional special operations forces and an increase in bombing missions to fight the militant group in Iraq and Syria, echoing comments from veteran Sen. John McCain and other Republican hawks in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris last week.

“We can’t win the war on Islamic terror on defense, we have to win on offense,” Cotton said. “We have to be on the offense around the world and kill them over there before they have a chance to kill us here.”

Cotton added that the U.S. is “currently not winning our fight” against ISIS. Though the U.S. has stopped some of the militant group’s advances into Iraq, Cotton stressed that a more offensive strategy is necessary to win the fight.

He would not recommend specific troop increases, which he said should be left to military leaders.

President Barack Obama said the U.S. would “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamist group when he launched a U.S.-led coalition to combat the militant group, mostly through an air campaign and training and advisory support for Iraqi security forces. Obama has ruled out sending troops into combat in Iraq, though the number of American military advisers on the ground has ticked up to more than 3,000 on his orders.

“It’s going to take more force on the ground in Iraq and Syria to protect our citizens around the world and here at home,” Cotton said, stressing that a Paris-style attack “could happen in the U.S.”

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris and the Kouachi brothers who stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris proclaimed their ties to the Yemen-based al-Qaeda affiliate.

The group was also responsible for the failed underwear bombing plot on Christmas Day in 2009, and Cotton said similar attacks are “likely” if the U.S. doesn’t “go on the offense.”

The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday announced new, tightened security measures at airports after AQAP featured instructions on building a homemade bomb that could slip through airport security scanners.

Cotton also echoed the criticism of several of his Republican colleagues on the intelligence committee who criticized the President last week for underestimating the threat posed by al-Qaeda and ISIS. The White House announced a summit on violent extremism in the wake of the Paris attacks, and U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are taking a fresh look at their databases of potential terrorists and are reassessing potential threats.

“The threat around the world is as great as it’s ever been,” Cotton said.

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