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Hillary Clinton: military action against ISIS ‘critical’ and ‘essential’

OTTAWA – As Canada debates its role in the fight against Islamic State terrorists, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls military action “critical” and “essential.”

While she added that military action alone is “not sufficient,” Clinton said it is necessary to prevent the advance of ISIS.

“I think military action is critical,” Clinton told an audience at the Canada 20/20 event in Ottawa Monday.

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“In fact, I would say essential, to try to prevent their further advance and their holding of more territory. Because by holding territory, they both gain weapons and they gain revenues. They are a really well-funded group.”

Clinton said most terrorist groups have not shown a “commitment” to expanding their reach the way ISIS has.

“I think we can agree that the threat is real first and foremost to the people living in the region, but it goes beyond that,” she said.

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Clinton’s remarks come as Canada debates its role in the Middle East. MPs are expected to vote Tuesday on a government motion to authorize airstrikes in Iraq for up to six months – a move opposed by both the Liberals and the NDP.

Clinton noted the military piece involves not just airstrikes but an attempt to rebuild “a dysfunctional” Iraqi army.

READ MORE: The opposition doesn’t support Harper’s ISIS airstrikes. Why?

She also acknowledged an “incredible dilemma” posed by going after ISIS within Syria. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday that Canada will only strike ISIS where it has “clear support of the government of that country” – leaving the door open to action in Syria if that were to become the case.

Clinton said the U.S. and its allies have to “figure out how we’re going to deal with the incredible dilemma posed by going after (ISIS) inside Syria.”

“We’re still in a standoff with the Assad regime, which continues to go after everybody but (ISIS) and you might ask yourself, why’s that, since they have taken over territory in northern Syria,” she said.

“And it’s because it fulfills the prediction that Assad made in the beginning of this conflict that everybody who was against him was a terrorist.”

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However, Clinton said that “military action alone” is not sufficient.

“Part of what we had to do was remove (Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal) al-Maliki, or convince the Iraqis to remove Maliki, in order to get new leadership that could try to restore some relationship with the Sunni tribal sheiks and the Kurds to empower those on the ground to fight for themselves and for Iraq.”

Clinton said the issue is a “long-term challenge.”

“It’s a very long game,” she said. “Part of what we have tried to do, and are doing now with this latest (ISIS) campaign, is to buy some time for people to at least have a chance.”

Clinton added that President Barack Obama has laid out a strategy for helping the Iraqi government “and a broad coalition of allies has come together to answer that call.”

“Canada initially sent dozens of military advisers to work with the Iraqis and I know that your Parliament is now debating a plan to do even more including dispatching fighter jets and other material,” she said.

“The United States I’m sure will welcome and respect whatever level of support Canada decides is appropriate to help meet this shared challenge.”