US President Barack Obama pledged to increase his country’s support for what he called “the moderate opposition in Syria” on Monday and said the United States needed to do more at home to prevent attacks and combat efforts of the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) takfiri group to recruit followers.
Obama, speaking during a visit to the Pentagon, noted the difficulty of preventing small-scale attacks by “lone wolves” within the US homeland despite success at preventing large attacks since that of Sept. 11, 2001 on New York and Washington.
“We’re going to have to pick up our game to prevent these attacks,” he said.
Obama said there were no current plans to send additional US troops overseas and repeated that the fight against ISIL would not be quick.
He said US training of Iraqi forces had been ramped up after being too slow.
The US military said that Iraq had not provided enough recruits to meet US training targets. It has also acknowledged that recruiting and training Syrians to fight ISIL was moving more slowly than expected, partly because of problems with vetting volunteers.
“We continue to accelerate the delivery of critical equipment, including anti-tank weapons, to Iraqi security forces,” Obama said. “And I have made it clear to my team that we will do more to train and equip the moderate opposition in Syria.”
Obama did not give details on what more the United States would do in that regard.
Republicans criticized the president for not having a successful strategy.
“His rhetoric doesn’t match reality. Over the last year, ISIL has expanded its reach exponentially – and the group’s influence continues to grow,” said Senator Tom Cotton, an Obama critic. “We’re not going to defeat an army with more bureaucrats in DC and no funding for our military on the front lines.”
Obama said more needed to be done to prevent ISIL from gaining recruits within the United States.
“US efforts to counter extremism must not single out Muslim Americans or any faith group, but the group was targeting its recruitment efforts at that community,” he underlined.
The US declared war on ISIL in Iraq and led a coalition to launch a military campaign against the group. However, western media reports spotted the planes of the US-led coalition dropping weapons, ammunition and food supplies over the ISIL-occupied areas.