NBC’s Richard Engel: ISIS ‘Growing Like Crazy’ Despite U.S. Efforts

‘ISIS has spread rapidly across north and west Africa, Arabia, and even the far east’

TODD: “Welcome back. While the debate over the Iran nuclear deal is the one that's dominating foreign policy discussion this summer, we are going to be reminded in about a week of the one-year anniversary of trying to take on ISIS. And we're reminded all the time of the brutality of ISIS. In fact, this week the group released footage purporting to show the destruction of the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria. Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis is now reaching Europe, as thousands of refugees flee the conflicts in the Middle East, with over 70 that suffocated in a truck in Austria, and at least 150 drowning off the coast of Libya. Here in Washington, there's a growing realization that the current strategy to defeat ISIS is simply not working. Here's our chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, with more.”

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ENGEL: “The only part of the U.S. strategy against ISIS that's on target so far is the U.S. air strikes. Last September, the administration announced the start of a war on ISIS.”

OBAMA: “To degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.”

ENGEL: “Then, about two weeks ago, Washington got what sounded like some long-awaited good news. The U.S. has been bombing ISIS for nearly a year, and finally got access to bases here in southern Turkey, bringing jets and drones far closer to their targets, a huge tactical gain. But ISIS doesn't seem to be shrinking. In fact, to quote one U.S. Official, ‘ISIS's international branches are growing like crazy.' ISIS has spread rapidly across north and west Africa, Arabia, Afghanistan, even into the far East. ISIS has expanded far more quickly and extensively than al-Qaeda ever did.”

ALTERMAN: “What's happening mostly is the brand of ISIS is as powerful as the brand of Osama bin Laden. The ISIS battle is not going to be a quick battle. It takes years.”

ENGEL: “And even at home in ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria, the group continues to operate openly, ruling by fear. Abu Muthena was a mid-level ISIS commander who ran a village near Raqqa in Syria like a mayor. ‘I was responsible for everything,’ he says, ‘the security of the town, its food, water, electricity, the fighters. I was the chairman of the police station.’ But Abu Muthenna eventually became disillusioned. ISIS he says is corrupt and kills too many Muslims. ‘I started doubting the Islamic state when they began to fight with other Islamic groups,’ he says. So why isn't the U.S. strategy working? It's based on three pillars, and they're all shaky: retraining the Iraqi Army. It's been slow, and Iran often called the shots. Training Syrian rebels. But so far, only a handful are ready to fight, and many of them have already been kidnapped. And finally, the airstrikes, which are killing ISIS fighters and leaders, but who are then replaced.”

ALTERMAN: “The problem with air strikes is it gives you a sense that you've done more than you've done. It's very hard to have desired political effects from the air, as we saw in U.S. operations in Libya.”

ENGEL: “And so NBC News has learned the U.S. Military, led by Special Operations, is now in the midst of the major policy review to come up with a new global strategy to deal with what is now global ISIS. For Meet the Press, Richard Engel, NBC News, Southern Turkey.”

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