President Barack Obama on Friday said unequivocally that the extremist group calling itself the Islamic State must be dismantled, degraded, and “ultimately defeated,” days after he earned criticism for saying the goal was to roll back the organisation to a point it was “manageable.”
“We are going to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL, in the same way we went after Al Qaeda,” Obama said Friday, later adding that “you can’t contain an organisation [like ISIS]. The goal has to be to dismantle them.”
Obama held a news conference Friday at the conclusion of the NATO Summit in Wales, touching on the crises in both Ukraine and Iraq. Obama echoed the words of Secretary of State John Kerry, who said Friday that the U.S. was committed to “destroying” the extremist group within three years as he announced a plan for an international coalition to confront the group in the Middle East.
It was a marked change from earlier this week, when Obama faced criticism after he expressed contradictory statements on his strategy toward confronting ISIS. He said Wednesday that the aim of a potential international coalition to combat ISIS was to reach “the point where it is a manageable problem.”
Obama said there was “unanimous” consent among NATO members at the summit that ISIS posed a threat to them and that “action” would need to be taken.
“We have a critical role to play in rolling back this savage organisation. We have to act,” Obama said.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s government and pro-Russian separatists battling government forces in the country’s eastern regions announced the terms of a cease-fire agreement on Friday. Obama said the cease-fire provided “hope,” but he said he was sceptical the separatists would follow through and that Russia would “stop violating Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty” and pull out its troops. NATO officials have said more than 1,000 Russian troops are currently in Ukraine fighting with pro-Russian separatists.
Despite news of the cease-fire, Obama said the U.S. and European Union were preparing to hand down amped-up sanctions on Russia as soon as Friday. Obama said the new measures were being finalised to “deepen and broaden” the sanctions on the country’s finance, energy, and defence sectors. He took credit for repeated sanctions helping to change Russian President Vladimir Putin’s calculus.
“We also sent a strong message to Russia that actions have consequences,” Obama said of the NATO Summit.
On Friday, however, there were reports of heavy shelling north and east of the key strategic city of Mariupol. The city Mariupol sits between areas occupied by separatists and the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in March with the help of special forces. The fear is that Russia is attempting to create a land link between Russia and the strategic peninsula.
NATO on Friday announced a new “rapid response” force to counter future Russian aggression in eastern Europe.
“We left absolutely no doubt we will defend every ally,” Obama said. “NATO will not be complacent.”
This post has been continually updated.
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