Credit: The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama addressed the nation on Wednesday, on the eve of the 12th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, to share the highlights of his strategy to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, the militant group that recently executed American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff in Syria and has terrorized civilians in Syria and Iraq.
“We continue to face a terrorist threat,” President Obama said from the White House. “We can’t erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge. At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain.”
Obama told the nation on Wednesday night that he plans to deploy 475 additional troops to Iraq.
“As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission — we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment,” he said. “We will also support Iraq’s efforts to stand up National Guard Units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL control.”
On Wednesday, as he did in a speech urging action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad one year ago, Obama aimed to reassure Americans that the actions taken to degrade a threat to the U.S. would not lead to a ground war similar to those the U.S. got involved in in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East — including American citizens, personnel and facilities,” Obama said. “If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region – including to the United States.”
Although the president said he has the authority to directly address the threat posed by the terrorist group, he emphasized, “I believe we are strongest as a nation when the president and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.”
Here’s what you need to know about the president’s plan:
AMPING UP AIRSTRIKES
- The president vowed to expand the air campaign beyond its original two missions: protecting Americans and providing humanitarian aid. Instead, airstrikes will be used a part of a broader effort to roll back ISIS in Iraq.
- The military will not be constrained by the Syrian border, Obama said.
- “We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” he said, warning terrorists, “If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
- The administration will work with the Department of Defense to develop and advance whatever options are necessary to take targeted action wherever ISIS is – whether in Iraq or Syria.
- The president plans to send an additional 475 U.S. service members to Iraq to assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces there. Troops will build on the work of assessment teams already in place in Baghdad and Erbil, teams embedded with Iraqi security forces, and existing surveillance assets, but will not be introduced into combat.
- He will call for Congress to authorize and resource a train-and-equip mission for Syrian opposition. We have support from key countries in this effort. The president spoke with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on this subject Wednesday.
- The U.S. will draw on a range of counter-terrorism tactics to prevent attacks on the homeland.
- It will also take steps to counter ISIS’ “warped” ideology, Obama vowed.
- President Obama aimed to make clear that ISIS is neither “Islamic” nor a “state.” He pointed out that ISIS began as an al Qaeda affiliate, and that “it is recognized by no government, nor by the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple, and it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.”
- The U.S. will work to stem the flow of fighters traveling to and from the region.
- In the interest of protecting ancient communities, such as Iraqi Christians, the United States’ humanitarian efforts will continue, Obama said.
“It will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL,” the president admitted on Wednesday. “Any time we take military action there are risks involved, especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions.”
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