President Barack Obama said Tuesday the US had joined five other nations in launching airstrikes in Syria against the group calling itself the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL).
In a statement from the South Lawn of the White House before he was scheduled to depart for New York for the United Nations General Assembly, Obama said the US would “not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.”
“We will do what is necessary to take this attack to this terrorist threat,” Obama said in a brief, three-minute statement. “The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America’s fight alone.”
America and allied partners in the region conducted 14 airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria early Tuesday morning, US Central Command said. Obama said Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia were part of the coalition.
The US separately launched eight strikes on an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the Khorasan Group, which Obama said was made up of “seasoned” al-Qaeda operatives.
Central Command said the strikes destroyed or damaged multiple ISIS targets in four locations, including the group’s de-facto capital of Raqqa. The targets included ISIS fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks, and armed vehicles.
The open up a new front against ISIS in Syria, wading the US into a civil war in which it has long tried to avoid involvement.
“We will do what’s necessary to defend our country,” Obama said.
Until now, US airstrikes against the group had been confined to Iraq, where it has now struck 194 targets since Aug. 8. About 130,000 Syrian refugees have fled across the border into Turkey in the past few days as Islamic State militants advance.
In addition to the airstrikes, Obama has sent hundreds of special-operations advisers to Iraq to assist and train Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurdish peshmerga forces. Last week, Congress approved legislation granting Obama the authority to train and arm vetted factions of the Syrian opposition.
Obama spoke with House Speaker John Boehner by phone on Monday evening and informed him of the airstrikes, said Michael Steel, Boehner’s spokesman.
This post was originally published at 10:18 a.m. and will be updated to include Obama’s remarks.
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