This is the first part of a series on U.S. strategy against the Islamic State.
Future installments will look in greater detail at the Syrian refugee issue in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.
WASHINGTON (CN) - Efforts to shut out Syrian refugees are "irresponsible" and will only embolden the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's recruiting arm, experts told two separate House committees on Wednesday.
The testimony came a day after six House Republicans, led by Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, moved to draft legislation to "pause" the admission of Syrian refugees into the United States, and after 31 state governors expressed opposition to resettling Syrian refugees after terror attacks in Paris last week killed 129 people and injured hundreds more.
The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility for the Nov. 13 attacks, and initial news reports indicated that several of the attackers might have pretended to be refugees, claims based on reports of a Syrian passport found near one of the attack sites.
Subsequent investigations have determined that all of the identified attackers were European Union nationals or legal residents, and the Syrian passport was likely fake. However, those revelations have not hampered the political firestorm that ensued over the Obama administration's plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees next year.
Retired Gen. Jack Keane with the Institute for the Study of War chided those calling for exclusion of Syrian refugees. The United States bears some responsibility to them for failing to implement a strategy over the last four years to stop the Syrian civil war, he said.
"I don't know how the United States of America can possibly say no to people who are pouring out of that country, given the horror of what's taken place and given our contribution to that horror," Keane said.
Though Keane told members of the House Homeland Security Committee during a hearing on the rise of radicalism that he supports the congressional push to "pause" the resettlement program to ensure safety, he called recent statements like those made by Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush to admit only Christian refugees "irresponsible," and "horrific."
Those voices, "are playing right into ISIL's hands," Keane said.
A "key strategy" for ISIL to grow its movement requires the creation of "fragmentation between Muslims and non-Muslims," Keane testified. The Islamic State intends to accomplish this by "isolating Muslims in the world from non-Muslims," he said.
"I guarantee you that they have picked up on some of the statements that have been made in this town in the last few days and those things are running all over their social media," Keane testified.
"Come on, this is America," Keane said. "We're smart enough to figure out how to bring thousands of people into this country and make sure they're not gonna to hurt us."
Other experts echoed those sentiments in a separate House Armed Services Committee hearing on the strategy for Iraq and Syria Wednesday afternoon.
Ryan Crocker, the former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Syria, told the committee that keeping refugees out of Europe and the United States will feed the ISIL narrative that Western countries are the successors of the crusaders, and that only ISIL can defend Islam.
He added that German Chancellor Angela Merkel's declaration that Syrian refugees would be welcome in Germany threw ISIL for a loop.