President Barack Obama said the attack in San Bernardino was part of a “new phase” of terrorism that his government intends to address and defeat, but he refused to engage in “a long and costly war” to achieve it. As reported by Reuters via Yahoo! News, Obama warned Americans on Sunday of the terrorist threat to the United States, and in the rare primetime address he laid out plans to keep Americans safe and defeat the Islamic State group.
“This was a terrorist act designed to kill innocent people,” Obama said in a speech to the nation from the Oval Office of the White House. “The threat from terrorism is real but we will overcome it,” Obama continued. “We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us. We’ve surged intelligence sharing with our European allies. We’re working with Turkey to seal off its border with Syria. We cannot turn against each other by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam.”
Obama said U.S. forces will continue to pursue and dismantle terrorist plots “in any country where it is needed.”
“We will continue to provide training and equipment to tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting ISIL on the ground so that we take away their safe havens,” Obama said. “In both countries, we’re deploying Special Operations Forces who can accelerate that offensive. We’ve stepped up this effort since the attacks in Paris, and we’ll continue to invest more in approaches that are working on the ground.”
Obama also called for greater action in the United States after the attacks in Paris, and said that Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun.
The president’s speech reflects the growing anxiety of the threat from ISIS after the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, which ended with the death of 14 people and left 21 others injured. Authorities are investigating the incident as an “act of terrorism.” The Los Angeles Times reported that U.S. Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch urged the public Sunday not to jump to conclusions about the motive for the attack or the couple’s ties to ISIS. She said Farook had made contact with some people the FBI was monitoring but again stressed the investigation is ongoing.
The president has struggled to convince his critics that he has a viable strategy to destroy ISIS in the Middle East and has been accused of underestimating the threat of the group for political reasons.
The president is under strict pressure from opponents who say that he had not taken the growing threat from the terrorist organization seriously. According to a survey conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News last November, a record low of 40% of Americans approved of Obama’s handling of terrorism.
[Image via Pool/Getty Images News]