The Prime Minister of France, Manuel Valls, said in a speech Sunday that his country was at war with radical Islam, but U.S. officials refrained from using similar language on Sunday.
When asked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Attorney General Eric Holder refused to characterize the United States’ fight as one against radical Islam, maintaining that the war was with individuals corrupting the faith.
“Well, I certainly think we are at war with those who would commit terrorist attacks and who would corrupt the Islamic faith in the way that they do to try to justify their terrorist actions. So that’s who we are at war with,” Holder said, “and we are determined to take the fight to them to prevent them from engaging in these kinds of activities.”
Individuals with ties to al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS and ISIL) carried out attacks in Paris that left seventeen dead, including journalists at the satirical paper Charlie Hebdo.
Holder spoke to ABC’s “This Week,” and three other Sunday programs, from France, where he was concluding meetings with his European counterparts, discussing the attack and the threat of terrorism.
The threat, Holder said, has changed in recent years, and the primary concern is not another large scale attack, like what occurred on September 11, but an attack by a “lonewolf” terrorist.
“I certainly think the possibility of such attacks in the United States exists,” Holder said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“It’s certainly something we worry about all the time. It’s something that we meet about all the time. It’s something frankly that keeps me up at night, worrying about the lone wolf or a group of people, very small group of people, who decide to get arms on their own and do what we saw in France this week,” he said.
In many ways those smaller attacks are more difficult to detect, but the U.S. government, Holder said, is focused on preventing them and working with “state and local counterparts to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
Despite those efforts, and the efforts of governments around the world, some lawmakers noted that the threat is unlikely to subside.
Senator Richard Burr (R., N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told ABC that a host of groups located throughout the Middle East have a clear desire to attack innocent civilians in places like France and the United States.
“When you look around the world, whether it’s in Yemen, whether it’s in Syria, whether it’s Iraq, whether it’s in Afghanistan or in North Africa with Boko Haram, we’ve got terrorist elements that are carrying out terrorist attacks, and if you put that collection together what you’ve got is a war on Western civilization,” said Burr.
“It really doesn’t matter which terrorist group we insert into the blank, the commitment is that they’re out to kill innocent people, and whether it happens in Paris or London or New York we’ve got to collectively do our best to make sure we thwart those attacks.”
President Obama invited allies to attend a February 18 “security summit,” in Washington, D.C.
The summit intends to increase cooperation as countries discuss the various ways to “counteract this violent extremism that exists around the world.”