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Ernst fears rise of ISIS in SE Asia, presses defense secretary for answers (video)

unnamedWASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on “U.S. National Security Challenges and Ongoing Military Operations,” Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a combat veteran, pressed Department of Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford on the rise of ISIS in Southeast Asia, and the need for a comprehensive strategy to counter their dangerous actions in the region.

As Senator Ernst noted, “[Islamic extremist groups] are also in Southeast Asia and we are not spending much time talking about that. Groups like Abu Sayyaf – they’re now bonding together beneath the flag of ISIS. Yet, we really, like I said, don’t seem to be focusing on this. The Philippine forces lost 44 of their special police in a single battle to these terrorist groups last year. 15 soldiers were killed in a single battle just last month.

“It’s clear that this is a very real threat, and President Obama admitted that we have underestimated the rise of ISIS in the Middle East, and what I fear right now is that we are completely underestimating the rise of ISIS in Southeast Asia.”

Both Secretary Carter and General Dunford agreed with Senator Ernst’s assessment of the growing threat in the region. Ernst followed by reiterating the critical need “to ensure that we are not taking our eyes off of that region” (see transcript below).

Senator Ernst’s questioning follows her recent remarks on the Senate floor as well as her column in TIME on the spread of ISIS in Asia.

Watch Senator Ernst’s questioning:

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