Interview With Martha Raddatz, ABC "This Week"

Interview
John Allen
Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition To Counter ISIL 
Amman, Jordan
February 8, 2015


Raddatz (on camera): General Allen says the coalition against ISIS is strengthening every day. The horrific murder of the young pilot has backfired on the terrorist group.

Raddatz (voice-over): With shocking atrocities in the headlines this week, ISIS has redefined barbarity, after the slaying of the Jordanian pilot. And now the group claims 26-year-old American aid worker Kayla Mueller, the last known American hostage, was killed in a retaliatory airstrike by the Jordanians.

Raddatz (on camera): Would you call this a tipping point?

General Allen: It's a very important moment for our Arab allies within the Coalition. And I think more broadly within the Coalition, it will be one of those moments that creates additional unity.

Raddatz (voice-over): The man behind the unified fight against ISIS is retired Marine Corps General John Allen, appointed as President Obama's Special Envoy.

(VIDEO CLIP)

President Obama (video): We will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.

Raddatz (voice-over): The appalling events of this week underscore the urgency of the fight. On Tuesday, ISIS released video showing Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh, burned alive while trapped in a cage, triggering outrage around the world.

(VIDEO CLIP)

Raddatz (on camera): Do you believe the murder of Lieutenant Kasasbeh backfired on ISIS?

General Allen: Absolutely it did.

Raddatz (voice-over): Jordan's King Abdullah is urging his people to fight back against ISIS. The first move, the execution of two al Qaeda prisoners on Jordan's death row. Then, on Thursday, a wave of crushing Jordanian airstrikes. A video released to drive home the point...

(VIDEO CLIP)

Raddatz: -- the missiles with inscriptions calling ISIS the enemy of Islam.

General Allen: His Majesty the King, King Abdullah, has indicated a desire to do more.

Raddatz: What effect has this had on the rest of the Coalition?

General Allen: Well, I think it's galvanized the Coalition, unified the Coalition.

Raddatz: The importance of coalitions is a lesson General Allen knows well. In Iraq, he helped unite Sunni tribes in the fight against al Qaeda and forged relationships with Middle Eastern leaders involved in the fight against ISIS now.

General Allen: The Arab states within this Coalition are really providing important leadership in this regard.

Raddatz (voice-over): Until now, Allen has faced difficulties in forming a true coalition. The U.S. has been responsible for more than 80 percent of all strikes against ISIS.

(on camera): You told George Stephanopoulos last August that what was needed was a hard blow against ISIL and that you needed a comprehensive plan. Have both those been accomplished?

General Allen: I believe they have, actually. And Kobani is a good example of where that blow really fell heavily on ISIL.

Raddatz (voice-over): Kobani, a former ISIS stronghold in Syria, now deserted after Kurdish forces pushed ISIS fighters out, as ABC's Alex Marquardt saw this week.

Marquardt: The businesses, piles of debris.

Raddatz( voice-over): But much of the rest of the country is a battleground.

Raddatz (on camera): Syria seems like an absolute breeding ground for terrorism right now.

General Allen: Well, it's a very important concern, obviously, to us. We don't have a partner in Syria, as we do in Iraq.

Raddatz: When you look at Iraq, still a third -- about a third that ISIL controls?

General Allen: Well, they control population centers. That's what's relevant.

Raddatz: When you look at the Iraqi security forces, have they really come far enough to be capable of doing this in the next few months or even a year, to retaking territory?

General Allen: It's very hard at several levels to prepare the Iraqi Security Forces to do this.

Raddatz (voice-over): Coalition forces are going up against what General Allen believes is a more formidable enemy than even al Qaeda.

General Allen: ISIL is a threat at an entirely different level than al Qaeda was.

Raddatz (on camera): Are they harder to find now? They have adapted.

General Allen: Well, they have. And we expected that would be the case. You don't see the long convoys now with flags flying in broad daylight. But we have also adapted our targeting process, as well.

Raddatz (voice-over): But still, the shadow of ISIS could be far-reaching.

Raddatz (on camera): Do you believe ISIS poses a threat to the homeland?

General Allen: I think we should take it very seriously.

Raddatz (voice-over): A stark reminder of that danger, aid worker Kayla Mueller's parents hold out hope she is still alive and General Allen told me, the U.S. is still looking into what happened. But meanwhile, the airstrikes continue unabated.