ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead, but Congressman Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) said his movement is still very much alive.
Kind said there are thousands of others who follow the ISIS ideology and will step forward to fill the breach.
Kind made those comments at a news conference at the La Crosse Regional Airport on Monday morning, following a trip to the Middle East to meet with U.S. troops and diplomats.
Kind said all eyes were on Europe for potential retaliatory strikes and the U.S. could not ignore the possibility of attacks on its homeland.
“Unfortunately, the president saw fit to warn Vladimir Putin before he even gave congressional leadership a heads up that this was going on,” Kind said. “You have to wonder what is going on with that whole relationship, but we are also bracing for stepped-up action by ISIS right now.”
Al-Baghdadi’s death was a key sign of why the U.S. needed to maintain a presence in Syria and stay loyal to Kurdish allies, who gathered intelligence for the attack on the ISIS leader, according to Kind, who disagreed with President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria.
“I think this is disastrous as far as national security interests in the region,” Kind said. “He is abandoning a long-time ally on the field, the Kurdish fighting forces that were willing to do the fight against ISIS and Al-Queda so we didn’t have to. It brings into question our credibility. Now, he has opened the door for ISIS and AL Queda to reconstitute themselves in Syria and Iraq, and he has opened the door for a greater presence for Iran, Russia, and Bashar al-Assad to reestablish control throughout the entire region.”
Kind noted when he went to Afghanistan, he heard concerns that the same rug would be pulled out from under them and troops would withdraw.
Wisconsin currently has a large footprint in Afghanistan with hundreds of Wisconsin National Guard troops serving including Appleton-based 2nd Battalion,127th Infantry with the Eau Claire-based 1st Battalion,128th Infantry arriving soon. Madison-based 115th Fighter Wing with the Wisconsin Air National Guard arrived in July and is serving in the same region.
“I’ve had a chance to go into war zones before,” Kind said. “Nothing makes me prouder to be an American than seeing our men and women in uniforms and what they are doing for us each and every day. They are incredible. We ask them to do very dangerous things sin very far away, dangerous places, and they do it so very well.”
One particular hero stood out to Kind. While in Afghanistan, he recognized Scott Weeks, an Onalaska firefighter who was there on his first mission abroad.
“It just shows you what a small world this is, and how people in our own community are going over there and doing an incredible job,” Kind said.
Weeks had been recognized in his community in April of 2018 for responding to a 911 call and helping deliver a baby boy on Onalaska.