Alabama’s Sen. Doug Jones, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, warns that ISIS is making every attempt to reorganize, including an increased recruitment of women and children, and that a continued U.S. presence in the Mideast region is critical to America’s national security.
The ISIS movement also is working hard to recruit college students, especially those with computer and technology skills, the senator said.
Jones returned stateside late Tuesday from an overseas trip to Afghanistan and Iraq, where he and two other Democratic senators met with American military commanders, troops and political leaders, among others.
“ISIS has not been defeated,” he said. “Our mission has not yet been accomplished.”
Jones, speaking on a media call Wednesday morning, described new concerns about the tactics ISIS is using to rebuild and restructure its militant organization and spread of its radical ideology.
“The number of women and children being recruited is quadrupling the number of fighters. We cannot rush out of there quickly,” he said.
“ISIS is recruiting out of universities. It is trying to recruit in the information age, and trying to recruit more women. It is still a very, very serious threat,” Jones said.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the senators said they detected a sincere effort with new hopes that peace talks can find some type of compromise in a country ravaged by decades of war, including discussions on the rights and safety of women.
Jones traveled with Sens. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Jack Reed of Rhode Island.
"When I met with the women leaders, they talked about what they were hearing,” Shaheen told reporters during her travel. “They wanted to see a cease fire, they wanted the fighting to end. They wanted to make sure that women continue to have rights.
"To hear the amount of peace activity that was going on in the country was surprising to me."
However, it’s also still too early to consider pulling troops from that country as well, Jones said.
“Afghanistan has a 40-year history of war. We’ve been there for 18 years. I think people are ready to have peace,” he said regarding his hopes that talks can be successful.
American military commanders, however, also remain convinced that U.S. national security interests dictate that troops continue their mission, at least for now, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Jones said, adding that he also met with troops from his home state of Alabama while visiting the two countries.
“I was happy to thank them for their service and sacrifice,” he said. “It was a very powerful experience” to meet and talk with them.
Regarding their mission so far from home, and the long duration of America’s involvement in both theaters of operation, “People have to understand that that’s where most of the terrorism around the world originates,” Jones said, “and now it’s become more sophisticated.”
He said he was moved by the dedication of all the American service personnel he met, from troops to commanders.
“They fully believe that their mission is to protect the United States, not just Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “I think that everyone there believes that their mission is not complete.”
Seeing it first hand, he said, “it all sinks in a heck of a lot more than just sitting and hearing someone speak at the capitol.”