On Wednesday, President Barack Obama addressed the nation for his first prime time address in over a year on the current situation of the extremist group ISIL.
“So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad, and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat…Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, [ISIS] through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy” said the President.
In his speech, President Obama laid out his four-part plan to eradicate ISIL, commonly referred to as ISIS, also calling on Congress for bipartisan support.
The President said that the United States would begin to take an offensive approach by expanding airstrikes in Iraq, beginning in Syria, providing humanitarian aid to those who are fleeing ISIS, supporting forces fighting the extremist militants on the ground, and working with international partners and regional powers to stabilize the region.
For the past month, the United States has sent over 150 airstrikes to ISIS-controlled Iraqi areas to provide aid to those being persecuted and to weaken the group’s 300,000 militants. But with the recent beheading of two American journalists, public opinion has been in favor of strikes against the militant group, pushing the President to take action.
“I will not hesitate to take action against [ISIS] in Syria, as well as in Iraq,” said President Obama, acknowledging the question many of us have been asking: Which is the greater evil? Because the Assad regime was accused of using chemical weapons on their own people, airstrikes against ISIS would benefit Assad.
However, President Obama acknowledged this and stated, “If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.” He then called on Congress to provide the authority and resources to train and equip Syrian opposition forces to expel the Assad regime while also extending air strikes to the northern regions.
Throughout his address, the President reminded us that we aren’t in this alone, lessening the fear that this would mean the same outcome that came from the Iraqi invasion and war in 2003.
Administrative officials instead described a long-term campaign that would consist of the United States working with the new Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, and other Middle Eastern powers to establish a stable government in Iraq and Syria.
President Obama stated that we would work with our allies to empower groups, such as the Kurds and moderate Syrian opposition, who are fighting the militants on the ground, while also providing military aid to Iraq. Such allies would be Saudi Arabia, who agreed last week to become a full partner in the efforts to equip Syrian fighters, and France, who agreed to aid airstrikes and call on other European powers to join.
In addition, The President made it a point that American troops would not be fighting on the ground directly, but 475 military personnel would be sent in addition to the more than 1,000 Americans who are already in Iraq protecting American facilities and advising Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the area.
“I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil,” said Obama.
“This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”
Obama did not give the plan a timetable, nor did he define what would mark victory over the group.
“It will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIS…We cannot 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,” said the President.
The President reminded throughout his speech that he has the authority to act on his own, but he is instead open to congressional approval. He called on Congress to “show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.”