President Barack Obama’s first question at a Monday press conference went to a reporter from the Paris-based Agence France-Presse.
That reporter directly confronted Obama over last week’s terror attack in Paris, France.
“One hundred and twenty-nine people were killed in Paris on Friday night. ISIL claimed responsibility for the massacre,” he said, using an acronym for the group also known as the Islamic State or ISIS.
“The equation has clearly changed. Isn’t it time for your strategy to change?” the reporter asked.
In response, Obama stressed everything the US is already doing to confront the Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
“Well, keep in mind what we have been doing,” Obama said. “We have a military strategy that involves putting enormous pressure on ISIL through airstrikes, that has put assistance and training on the ground with Iraqi forces. We’re now working with Syrian forces as well to squeeze ISIL.”
Obama continued ticking off actions the US has taken.
“We’ve been coordinating internationally to reduce their financing capabilities, the oil that they’re trying to ship outside. We are taking strikes against high-value targets,” he said.
The president argued that most of his critics — many of whom have latched onto his pre-attack comment that the Islamic State has been “contained” geographically — don’t realise that he has taken all of those steps.
“As I said from the start, it’s going to take time. What’s been interesting in the aftermath of Paris, as I listen to those who suggest ‘something else needs to be done,’ typically the things they suggest need to be done are things we are already doing,” he said.
“The one exception is there have been a few who have suggested that we should put large numbers of US troops on the ground,” Obama added. “It is not just my view, but the view of my closest military and civilian advisers, that that would be a mistake.”
Obama faced several questions on the topic of the US’s strategy against ISIS. Jim Acosta, a CNN reporter, summed up what he termed the “frustration” of many Americans when he colorfully asked, “Why can’t we take out the bastards?”
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