Following a meeting with top security advisors today, President Obama told press gathered at the Pentagon that nations fighting against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq are making headway, and that the pace of action against the terror organization is going to continue to increase.
Coalition forces from allied nations including France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Italy have been executing a four-pronged campaign encompassing military and diplomatic action, President Obama said. Successes include recapturing more than 40 percent of the Islamic State’s previously held territory in Iraq and thousands of square miles in Syria. More bombs were dropped on Islamic State targets in November than during the entire campaign, he said in video of the press conference posted on Reuters.
“We are taking out ISIL leaders, commanders and killers one by one,” said President Obama. “The point is ISIL leaders cannot hide, and our next message to them is simple: You are next.”
The coalition strategy encompasses not only directly hunting down the terrorists themselves, but also assisting Syrian and Iraqi forces fighting in their own countries, disrupting the Islamic State’s supply chains, and engaging in “persistent diplomacy” to end the Syrian civil war and turn the region’s focus to destroying the Islamic State, President Obama said.
The Islamic State puts civilians at risk by creating strongholds in urban areas, posing a threat that must be approached with precision, said President Obama. Consequently, the coalition is emphasizing attacks against fuel supply lines and other key logistical targets.
Although there are signs of success, and coalition forces are hitting the Islamic State harder than ever before even given the challenging circumstances, President Obama acknowledged that it is still not enough.
“Progress needs to keep coming faster,” he said. “No one knows that more than the countless Syrians and Iraqis living every day under ISIS terror.”
He also acknowledged the pain of the families affected by the bombings in Paris and more recently in San Bernadino, California.
Since the San Bernadino shootings, President Obama has come under fire from media and political opponents, criticizing his approach to fighting terrorism at home and the Islamic State abroad as weak, USA Today reports.
President Obama is also overselling the successes we are having on the battlefield. His strategy will not destroy ISIL and he knows it.— Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog) December 7, 2015
Despite lukewarm support from Republican leaders for its strategy, the Pentagon is asserting the campaign against the Islamic State is progressing successfully, noting concrete successes, reports USA Today. After months of bombing Islamic State leaders and fighters, Iraqi security forces have begun to retake the western Iraqi city of Ramadi. Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq also recently regained control of Sinjar, a key city which links the cities of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq currently held by the Islamic State.
To help increase the pace of success against the Islamic State, President Obama dispatched Defense Secretary Ash Carter to the Middle East today following the press conference to work with military partners to increase military assistance in this fight, President Obama said.
Speaking at a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting recently, Secretary Carter expressed frustration at the pace of Iraqi security forces’ progress against the Islamic State in Ramadi, and mentioned that the United States would be willing to deploy advisers and attack helicopters to help finish the job if requested, reported Newsweek.
“The United States is prepared to assist the Iraqi Army with additional unique capabilities to help them finish the job, including attack helicopters and accompanying advisers, if circumstances dictate and if requested by Prime Minister Abadi,” Carter said.
[Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images]