President Barack Obama outlined a strategy to confront the jihadist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL) with expanded U.S. military operations in Syria and Iraq in a primetime speech Wednesday. However, Obama, whose first White House bid was fuelled by strong opposition to the Iraq War of the last decade outlined several reasons his fight against ISIS would be “different” from the conflict.
“Any time we take military action, there are risks involved — especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions,” said Obama. “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.”
In addition to his promise there would not be “combat troops” on the ground fighting ISIS, Obama emphasised three other elements that would distinguish this conflict from the War on Terror in Iraq and Aghanistan.
Critics of the Bush administration regularly mocked the size of the so-called “coalition of the willing” that was allied with the U.S. following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In his speech, Obama emphasised a “broad coalition” of allies would join America to combat ISIS.
“This is not our fight alone,” Obama said. “American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region.”
Since launching airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq last month, Obama has stressed his military operations against the group are “targeted.” Obama compared his strategy for ISIS to American missions in Yemen and Somalia. He suggested those operations, as well as others that have occurred during his time in office, were successful.
“Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’ve targeted al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia,” said Obama. “We’ve done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year. Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.”
Finally, in addition to stressing U.S. “combat troops” would not be deployed on the ground in Syria and Iraq, Obama emphasised his plan called for efforts to back local forces in those countries. Though he called for sending “an additional 475 service members to Iraq,” Obama said they would have the same mission as the “several hundred American service members” he sent to Iraq in June.
“We will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq,” Obama said.
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