President Barack Obama has officially asked Congress for authorization to use military force against Islamic State militants (also known as ISIS or ISIL) in the Middle East.
And in a White House speech announcing move on Tuesday, Obama delivered plenty of tough talk against the jihadist group.
“More than 2,000 coalition airstrikes have pounded these terrorists,” Obama said. “We’re destroying their fighting positions, their tanks, their vehicles, their barracks, their training camps, and the oil and gas facilities and infrastructure that fund their operations. We’re taking out their commanders, their fighters, and their leaders.”
Obama also claimed the US’ coalition is winning both in Iraq, where the local government is allied with the US, and in Syria, where the unstable, autocratic government created the political vacuum the Islamic State seized to control vast swaths of territory in the two countries.
“We’ve seen reports of sinking morale among ISIL fighters as they realise the futility of their cause,” Obama added while also striking a cautious note. “It’s going to take time to dislodge these terrorists, especially from urban areas. But our coalition is on the offensive. ISIL is on the defensive and ISIL is going to lose.”
The rhetoric stands in stark contrast to how Obama referred to the Islamic State just over a year ago. In a profile of Obama in January of 2014, the president dismissed the jihadist group as the terrorists’ “JV” team.
“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” he quipped at the time.
Earlier on Wednesday, the White House sent Congress its request for an authorization to use military force. Although both Democrats and Republicans widely support the force authorization proposal, they also have their complaints. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) said he was “concerned about the breadth and vagueness of the US ground troop language,” which allowed for ground troops only in specific cases like rescuing hostages. On the other hand, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wanted fewer limitations for US troops.
“ISIL is at war with our country and our allies. If we are going to defeat this enemy, we need a comprehensive military strategy and a robust authorization, not one that limits our options,” Boehner said in a statement. “While I believe an AUMF against ISIL is important, I have concerns that the president’s request does not meet this standard.”
But Obama said his request strikes the “necessary balance” to give flexibility for US operations. He also said he wished to limit the authorization to the next three years so his successor can decide how to continue the battle if it is still going on.
“Congress should revisit the issue at the beginning of the next president’s term,” the president argued. “It’s conceivable that the mission is completed earlier, it’s conceivable … there are additional tasks to be carried out in this area and the people’s representatives, with a new president, should be able to have that discussion.”
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