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EXCLUSIVE: Four-Star General on the Top Two Threats Facing U.S. Today

NTK had five questions for Jack Keane — a retired four-star general — on the most pressing national security issues of the day. General Keane had answers.

NTK

On Wednesday, the Need to Know (NTK) Network talked to General Jack Keane, a retired four-star general and former Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, to discuss the most pressing national security issues of the day.

Here’s what he had to say, in the form of five questions we asked him, on everything from ISIS to North Korea to running for office here at home.

#1: THE U.S. FIGHTING FORCE IN SYRIA

We asked General Keane about the recent uptick in American troops in Kuwait and in Manbij, Syria, potential signs of an escalating U.S. presence in the fight against ISIS.

General Keane said these are “initial installments on a comprehensive campaign to defeat ISIS,” which President Trump had asked for shortly after taking office.

“This is the first time since ISIS invaded Iraq in January of 2014 that the military has ever been asked to provide a comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS,” General Keane added, suggesting such a comprehensive plan was lacking in prior years.

#2: ELIMINATING ISIS

On the subject of ISIS, General Keane noted something that President Trump has pointed out on many occasions — the U.S. is fighting a war against radical Islamic terrorism.

“It involves not just retaking the lost territory in Iraq, which is very much ongoing,” General Keane said. “It also involves undermining the finances and the ideology of the organization. They have a virtual caliphate that they operate on the internet every single day. It also involves the 30-plus countries that ISIS has expanded into.”

“We’re fighting an ideology,” General Keane later added. “That’s what radical Islam is.”

General Keane said that, in order for the world to defeat radical Islam and ISIS, it will have to be rejected by moderate Muslims, and also by “young people who do not see this as a goal in their life, to have a purposeful life.”

#3: THREE REVISIONIST POWERS

When asked about the most dangerous security threats facing America today, General Keane talked about radical Islam and North Korea, but also about “three revisionist powers” seeking “regional domination”: Russia, Iran, and China.

“All three of them have successfully trampled on U.S. and our allies’ interests,” General Keane said.

General Keane called the global security challenges facing the world among the “most significant since the rise of the Soviet Union” in the mid-twentieth century.

#4: THE NORTH KOREA THREAT

General Keane spoke at length about the “collision course” the U.S. is on with the rogue state of North Korea (read more on that here, via NTK Network).

The retired general suggested a sense of urgency to rein in North Korea, saying the U.S. is “running out of diplomatic, economic and political options. We are getting dangerously close to a military option only.”

General Keane placed trust in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to “send a strong message to the Chinese” this week. The U.S. has “failed miserably” with China for over twenty years in getting them to curb North Korean behavior according to the general.

Keane then gamed out the risks of America’s last resort — a military option to attack North Korea’s nuclear launch facilities.

“It’s likely that North Korea will respond” in that scenario, General Keane said. “They could respond with an artillery and rocket attack into Seoul,” Keane said, adding “all Seoul is reachable.”

The general also warned that North Korea could opt for a ground invasion of South Korea. “These are unacceptable options that should guide the Chinese to finally get North Korea to stand down its nuclear program.”

#5: RUNNING FOR OFFICE

Finally, we asked General Keane about the possibility he may run for office. Keane reportedly turned down President Trump’s offer to be secretary of defense in November.

“The answer to that is no,” Keane said. “Retired military should not seek elected — particularly, national — office.”

“Once people form the thought” that the military could be a “stepping stone” to elected national office, “then military leaders would be losing the independence they need” Keane added.

General Jack Keane is a retired four-star general, former Vice Chief of Staff of the US Army, and Chairman of the Institute for the Study of War.