President Obama told American nation that he ordered to launch a broad military campaign in Syria and Iraq, authorizing airstrikes and more attacks on both Middle East countries.
In his prime-time address to the nation from the White House on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Obama declared an aggressive offensive to combat Isis, which has been responsible for the beheading of two American citizens in the past month and captured a swath of territory in northern parts of Iraq and Syria.
“Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy,” Barack Obama said, avoiding the use of Islamic State, which suggests that the group has succeeded in its objective of carving out a caliphate in the Middle East.
“We will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists,” said Obama. “I will not hesitate to take action against Isil in Syria, as well as Iraq,” he said.
Obama added the air strikes were a necessary counter-terrorism measure to prevent Isil from becoming a future threat to the US and therefore did not require fresh congressional approval.
The president’s counter-terrorism strategy also includes: more airstrikes in Iraq; the deployment of 475 more American advisers to help Iraqi forces, bringing the total number of American advisers to some 1,600; help from other countries; and an emphasis on having local ground forces battle the insurgent group that is also known as ISIL or ISIS.
The U.S. began launching limited airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq earlier this summer at the request of that country’s former prime minister. However, the President insisted that U.S. combat troops won’t be back to the region.
Obama admitted, “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. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil,” he added.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, a frequent Obama critic, said he supports the idea of training Iraqi and Syrian fighters, but “I remain concerned that those measures could take years to fully implement at a time when ISIL’s momentum and territorial gains need to be immediately halted and reversed.”
Boehner said that while Obama presented “a compelling case for action, many questions remain about the way in which the president intends to act.”
On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with Turkish leaders to discuss their contribution to the effort, but emerged with no concrete commitments. A Turkish official expressed concerns that weapons sent to Syrian rebels to fight ISIS could end up in the hands of Kurdish fighters whom Turkey regards as a terrorist group, reports the NY Times.
Senior U.S. officials said that key ally Saudi Arabia will host inside its territory a U.S. training effort for Syrian rebels as a significant move that could help rally Gulf Arab states behind the U.S.-led coalition.