Terming the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as a “cancer”, US President Barack Obama has said that the top American priority was to roll back the gains made by the terrorist outfit in Iraq.
Obama also said that he has directed his Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General, Martin Dempsey to prepare a strategy to successfully handle the challenge posed by the ISIL.
“Because of our strikes, the terrorists of ISIL are losing arms and equipment. In some areas, Iraqi government and Kurdish forces have begun to push them back. We continue to be proud and grateful to our extraordinary personnel serving in this mission,” Obama said on Thursday.
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Noting that the ISIL poses an immediate threat to the people of Iraq and to people throughout the region, Obama said the US military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader comprehensive strategy to protect “our people and to support our partners who are taking the fight to ISIL.”
The President said any successful strategy also needed strong regional partners.
“I’m encouraged so far that countries in the region, countries that don’t always agree on many things, increasingly recognise the primacy of the threat that ISIL poses to all of them,” he said.
“Rooting out a cancer like ISIL will not be quick or easy, but I’m confident that we can and we will, working closely with our allies and our partners. For our part, I’ve directed Secretary Hagel and our Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare a range of options,” he added.
Obama said the violence that’s been taking place in Syria has given ISIL a safe haven in ungoverned spaces.
“In order for us to degrade ISIL over the long term, we’re going to have to build a regional strategy. Now, we’re not going to do that alone,” he said.
“We’re going to have to do that with other partners. And particularly, Sunni partners, because part of the goal here is to make sure that Sunnis, both in Syria and in Iraq, feel as if they’ve got an investment in a government that actually functions.
“A government that can protect them. A government that makes sure that their families are safe from the barbaric acts
that we’ve seen in ISIl,” he said.
The President said such structures were not currently in place and that’s why the issue with respect to Syria was not simply a military issue but also a political one.
He said it was also an issue that involved all the Sunni states in the region and Sunni leadership.
Obama said the Iraq’s security forces needed help from the US and the international partners to succeed.
“They’re going to need additional training. They’re going to need additional equipment. And we are going to be prepared
to offer that support. There may be a role for an international coalition providing additional air support for their operations,” he said.
“The problem we have had consistently is a Sunni population that feels alienated from Baghdad and does not feel invested in what’s happening and does not feel as if anybody is looking out for them,” he said.
“Our message to the entire region is: This should be a wake-up call to Sunni, to Shia, to everybody that a group like ISIL is beyond the pale; that they have no vision or ideology beyond violence and chaos and the slaughter of innocent people.”
We’ve got to all join together, even if we have differences on a range of political issues, to make sure that they’re rooted out, he added.