Obama Announces Expanded Air Strikes Against Islamic State

President Barack Obama outlined a ‘steady, relentless’ strategy Wednesday night to combat Islamic State fighters ‘wherever they exist,’ signaling that he will target them in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, where the militant group have captured large swaths of territory. “Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy,” he said in a televised speech from the White House on the eve of terrorist attacks.

Barack Obama
Obama announces expanded airstrikes against Islamic State

“Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not ‘Islamic’,” Obama said at the outset of his 15-minute address. “No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state.” The president outlined a four-part strategy to deal with the threat from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL. Part of that strategy includes what the president called ‘systematic’ airstrikes against IS. He also said those airstrikes will include “working with the Iraqi government” to “expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offence.” The president also said he will be sending an additional 475 troops to Iraq.

But he emphasized these American forces “will not have a combat mission.” As a part of that, the United States has already ramped up military assistance to the Syrian opposition. He once again asked Congress to give the resources needed. “In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime (in Syria) that terrorizes its people; a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost,” he said, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL,

while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.” Obama said he will work with the coalition to cut off funding to IS. In two weeks, the president will chair a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York to “further mobilise the international community around this effort.” Lastly, the United States will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been forced from their homes by “this terrorist organization.” 

As far as securing the backing of Congress for his plan to strike back against IS, the President said, “My administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home. I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL. But 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.” The president did, however, say this will take time and it does come with risks, especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions. But, he did emphasize, “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.” During the speech, he also mentioned US leadership in combating the Ebola virus currently ravaging Africa as well as the fight to stop Russian aggression in Ukraine. 

Obama concluded his speech to the nation Wednesday night with these words:”When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here’s what one of them said. ‘We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people. ”  Senior administration officials who briefed reporters before the speech on condition of not being identified said airstrikes against ISIS targets in

Syria would occur “at a time and place of our choosing.” “We’re not going to telegraph our punches by being specific about the time and nature of the targets,” one official said, adding that “we will do that as necessary as we develop targets.” Also Wednesday, Obama shifted $25 million in military aid to Iraqi forces, including Kurdish fighters in the north combating the ISIS extremists.

The aid could include ammunition, small arms and vehicles, as well as military education and training, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.US diplomatic efforts this week seek to solidify the coalition. Secretary of State John Kerry left Tuesday to push Sunni leaders in Jordan and Saudi Arabia to join the United States and its allies in combating ISIS, while Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and Lisa Monaco, the homeland security adviser, also will be in the region. “The Saudis made very clear that they support this mission, they will join us in this mission,” a senior administration official said. “We are joined by very important Arab partners as well.” Obama has been criticised by conservatives and some Democrats for what they call inadequate response so far to the threat by ISIS fighters. The recent beheading of two American journalists held captive by ISIS raised public awareness of the extremists and the threat they pose. “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,” Obama said. ISIS poses a threat to the Middle East, including the people of Iraq and Syria, he said, adding: “If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including the United States.” Conservative Republicans who have railed against Obama’s foreign policy sounded relieved by what they heard. The President’s plan announced this evening is an encouraging step in the right direction,” said Mike Rogers, a Republican, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and has been a harsh Obama critic. “Success will depend on the details of its implementation.” His Republican colleague, Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas, said: “Tonight the President seemed to have faced reality.” Leading Democrats such as Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York praised the speech, as expected,

While Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey said the Foreign Relations Committee he chairs would begin drafting legislation to provide Obama with specific authority under the War Powers Resolution to continue to extend military operations against ISIS. Meanwhile, the anti-war liberal caucus in the House signaled possible opposition by calling for a vote on authorizing expanded military action. Obama has insisted he has the authority to ratchet up airstrikes against ISIS under war powers granted more than a decade ago to fight al Qaeda. ISIS formed from some Qaeda affiliates but is separate from the central leadership of the terrorist organisation behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. -nation