Unveiling its comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy, US on Thursday vowed to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State (IS) with air strikes and said terrorists who threaten America will find “no safe haven”.
President Barack Obama in a nationally televised speech warned IS, the feared al-Qaeda splinter terrorist group which has seized hundreds of square miles in Iraq and Syria and killed thousands of people in both the countries.
“We will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy,” Obama said.
As part of the plan, the President said that the US will expand its efforts beyond protecting its own people and humanitarian missions.
“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’s forces on the ground,” Obama said.
“I’ve made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country wherever they are,” he said.
“That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven,” he said.
The US President however set no timeline to achieve the goal to defeat ISIL, for which, he said, several dozen countries have joined the US-led international coalition.
“America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” he said, noting that the US will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists.
“Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense,” he added.
Secondly, the US will increase its support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground, he said, and announced his decision to send an additional 475 service members to Iraq.
These additional service members will be deployed to Iraq to conduct the following missions: advise and assist the Iraqi Security Forces in order to help them go on the offense against ISIL, conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights to increase US capacity to target ISIL, and coordinate the activities of the US military across Iraq, the Pentagon said in a statement.
Once all forces have arrived, the US military will have approximately 1,600 personnel in country.
Obama said the US will continue to draw on its substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks.
“Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding, improve our intelligence, strengthen our defences, counter its warped ideology and stem the flow of foreign fighters into and out of the Middle East,” he said.
In two weeks, Obama will chair a meeting of the UN Security Council to further mobilise the international community around this effort, he said.
“Fourth, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims, who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands,” he said.
“So this is our strategy, and in each of these four parts of our strategy, America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners,” he said, and acknowledged that it will take time to achieve his goals.
“It will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL. And any time we take military action, there are risks involved, especially to the servicemen and women, who carry out these missions. But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said the US President, in his speech that lasted for about 15 minutes.
“It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil,” he said.
“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. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilise partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order,” Obama said.