US Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes says about 180 American citizens have jointed or tried to join the ISIL terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.
“We continue to believe the number of Americans who have aimed to join the fight either going into Iraq and Syria, or trying to and being stopped in that effort, is in the neighborhood of a 180,” Rhodes told reporters on Wednesday.
He also warned about the consequences of those who will return to the United States.
“We are very focused on the foreign fighter issue because, ultimately, that could provide a pipeline for people to return to the United States, Europe or other countries to potentially carry out attacks,” Rhodes said.
The US and its allies have been conducting airstrikes against the ISIL terrorists since last year. However, the terror network now controls large parts of Iraq and Syria.
US President Barack Obama on Wednesday authorized the deployment of hundreds of additional forces to Iraq in an effort to “advise” and train local forces to regain areas lost to ISIL.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement that Obama ordered to send “up to 450 additional military personnel” to Iraq at the request of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
The US president has been under fire for his war strategy. A number of lawmakers and officials framed his leadership as ineffective.
In an interview with Press TV on Tuesday, a political commentator said the lack of a complete strategy by the US to defeat ISIL indicates Obama is a “reluctant warrior” and wants to avoid another costly war.
“Obama is reluctant to have this mission creep, he sees it as a slippery slope that once again wants to get America embroiled in a bloody conflict in this country that costs America so dearly already,” said Dr. Brian Glyn Williams, a professor of Islamic History at the University of Massachusetts.