Several of America's top defense officials recently called the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) "beyond just a terrorist group" and argued that the U.S. may need to target ISIS fighters in Syria, as it is not enough to just hit the extremist group in Iraq.
On Friday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested that the United States may be forced to take further action against the violent terrorist group.
"Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no," Dempsey said during the briefing at the Pentagon, CNN reports.
When asked if that meant operations against ISIS in Syria, Hagel said, "We're looking at all options," adding that the U.S. is "very clear-eyed" about ISIS.
"They are beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess," Hagel said.
"This is beyond anything we have seen, and we must prepare for everything. And the only way you do that is that you take a cold, steely hard look at it and get ready."
Sen. John McCain, who has advocated for strikes against ISIS in Syria, said the extremists were "an enemy that must be defeated. Not stopped, but defeated."
"It is a cancer which has spread throughout that region and can spread into Europe and into the United States of America," McCain warned during a meeting in Arkansas.
ISIS violence has hit far too close to home, as United States, as American journalist James Foley was recently execution at the hands of the group. The gruesome killing was captured on video and posted online this week as a warning to the United States.
Nechirvan Barzani, the prime minister of the regional government, called the beheading of Foley "a horrendous act committed with utter disregard for human life."
"Like Mr. Foley, several hundred innocent members of the Yazidi and Christian communities have been killed in the same manner," Barzani said in a statement Thursday. "There is no way to overstate the extent of this inhumanity, and it illustrates the true, dark nature of the terrorists that we are confronting."
ISIS has also threatened to execute another American hostage, journalist Steven Sotloff, if the United States continues its airstrikes in Iraq.
Since August 8, the U.S. military has carried out 90 airstrikes, 57 of them in support of Iraqi forces near the Mosul Dam, according to the Defense Department. Thus far, six airstrikes have hit ISIS positions, which have destroyed or damaged three ISIS Humvees, one ISIS vehicle and multiple locations where improvised explosives had been placed, the U.S. military said.
On Thursday, Kurdistan's regional government thanked the United States and the international community for their military support.
"We are grateful to the men and women of the American armed forces who have carried out these decisive attacks against the terrorist forces of ISIS," said a statement from the regional government.