ISIS spreading like cancer in Europe, says NATO
Washington: Violent extremists, criminals and foreign fighters are part of the daily refugee flow into Europe, the top NATO commander in Europe has said.
The refugees are "masking the movement" of these dangerous elements and heightening the potential for an attack, he said.
Testufyng before the US Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove said the Islamic State is "spreading like a cancer" within this mix, "taking advantage of paths of least resistance, threatening European nations" and the United States.
He later told the media that he had asked for more U.S. forces to be permanently based in Europe, which is facing threats from a more aggressive Russia as well as the Islamic State group.
The Pentagon has steadily decreased the number of U.S. forces in Europe over the last several years, choosing to shift focus to the Asia Pacific while fighting continues in the Middle East. But the growing threats from Russia and the Islamic State have raised questions about those decisions.
Breedlove said Russia's actions in Syria have "wildly exacerbated the problem." Despite its public pronouncements, Russia and Assad, Breedlove said, are using migration as a weapon to overwhelm European support structures and break European resolve.
The International Organization for Migration said Tuesday that almost 130,000 migrants — more than 2,000 each day — have reached Europe by sea since the beginning of this year and 418 have died trying, most drowning in the cold, rough waters. The number of arrivals in the first two months of 2016 is more than 11 times as many as the same period last year.