House Intel Chair Worried About Westerners in 'Jihadist Disneyland'

June 16, 2014 - 5:24 AM

Rep. Mike Rogers

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., discusses the death of Osama bin Laden at a news conference on Capitol Hill on Monday, May 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(CNSNews.com) - The United States needs to be very worried about "Westerners who have come to jihadist Disneyland" in both Syria and Iraq, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, told "Fox News Sunday."

"You have an al-Qaida army on the move. This isn't just Sunnis versus Shia...This is as dangerous as it gets. Why? We have thousands of Westerners and Americans in both eastern Syria and Iraq who have Western passports," Rogers said.

"[W]e know we have these Westerners who have come to jihadist Disneyland in eastern Syria that we can further radicalize, train and send back to Europe and send back to the United States."

Rogers said the "rising al-Qaeda army" is a problem that the U.S. will have to face: "And we're either going to face it in New York City or we're going to face it here" (in Iraq and Syria).

"These are not monkey-bar terrorists out in the desert somewhere, planning some very low-level attack. These are sophisticated command-and-control, seasoned combat veterans who understand the value of terrorism operations external to the region, meaning Europe and the United States. That is about as dangerous a recipe as you can put together."

Rogers said the U.S. must stop the terrorists' momentum by re-engaging its Arab League partners.

"They have been willing for almost three years to get engaged in a more robust way. But they need certain things the U.S. can bring to the table: command and control, intelligence packages and more accurate targeting. That all is somewhat missing in this equation."

Rogers noted that al-Qaida apparently has seized two helicopters that the U.S. gave to Iraq, which means the terrorists can move around the battlefield. "We've never seen this before."

He said the U.S. ignores the growing threat in Iraq and Syria at its peril: He noted that the U.S. failure to respond to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing led to the 1998 attack on U.S. embassies in Africa, then the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, and finally to the 9-11 attacks on U.S. soil. We can't say it's not our fight, he insisted.

Rogers does not want to send U.S. troops to the region, but he said targeted air strikes by Arab nations may be necessary to prevent the "al Qaida army" from gaining more safe haven.

"It would mean really a failure of U.S. leadership if we can't put the Arab League together to fight this problem that they know is in their best interests and the U.S. best interests to quell this al-Qaida rising army."

Rogers said the U.S. has "neglected Syria fo three years," and now it's time to decide what the U.S. needs to do there as well:

"We're going to have to have a refocused strategy on how we deal with those rising extremists in eastern Syria, which means what do you do with Assad? Tough question. And then what we do to disrupt their activities in Iraq. We have to do this or we're going to pay a horrible price for it. And so are our European allies."