The US President emphasised that Washington will take the lead in a “broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.”
On the eve of the thirteenth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks U.S. President Obama announced a raft of measures upping the ante against Islamic State, the militant outfit that now controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria, including airstrikes in Syria and 475 additional personnel to arrive soon in Iraq to serve as “military advisers.”
Mr. Obama warned IS, which in recent weeks posted videos online showing the gruesome decapitation of two American journalists, “This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
He argued that IS was neither Islamic, for “no religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim,” and nor was it a state, given that it was formerly an al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq, and is “recognised by no government, nor the people it subjugates, [but] is a terrorist organisation, pure and simple…”
While the latest addition of U.S. military personnel brings their total number to 1,600 in the country, the President left open-ended the question of a timeline or a specific end-date for military operations in the region, the identity of Syrian opposition groups with whom the U.S. will seek to cooperate, or any plans for building cross-sectarian political institutions that could fill the space left by a “degraded” IS.
In his closely watched speech Mr. Obama declared his unwillingness to work with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, yet he promised that a systematic, comprehensive and sustained campaign to “degrade and ultimately destroy” IS would go hand-in-hand with increased military assistance to Iraqi and Kurdish forces, as well as to the Syrian opposition.
With officials indicating that Saudi Arabia was on board with the coalition to participate in a mission to “train and equip” forces against IS, the White House released a list of 38 nations and associations of nations that have undertaken international efforts to counter IS or otherwise support the people of Iraq and Syria, which did not include India.
The President reassured the American public that unlike the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he “will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil,” the President said that the anti-IS strategy that he outlined, of a “steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground,” would mirror the approach that the U.S. has “successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”
Some U.S. opposition leaders such as House Speaker John Boehner called for a clearer, even more aggressive strategy, saying after Mr. Obama’s speech, “I remain concerned that [the plan to train and equip the Iraqi Security Forces and Syrian opposition] could take years to fully implement at a time when ISIL’s momentum and territorial gains need to be immediately halted and reversed.”
Mr. Boehner added that it was also “a cause for concern” that the Obama administration appeared to view the effort against IS as an “isolated counterterrorism campaign, rather than… an all-out effort to destroy an enemy that has declared a holy war against America and the principles for which we stand.”