President Barack Obama discussed his strategy to “destroy” and “eradicate” the jihadist group calling itself the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) in a primetime speech Wednesday night.
He laid out a four-pronged strategy, which he dubbed a “counterterrorism strategy,” that combines expanding a coalition-led air campaign with support for Iraqi, Kurdish, and Syrian opposition forces on the ground.
In a nutshell, here are the four elements of his strategy:
• Airstrikes: This will include an expansion that goes far beyond the more-than 150 airstrikes the U.S. military has already carried out against ISIS targets in Iraq. Obama also said he was prepared to strike ISIS targets in Syria as well as Iraq.
“We are going to take airstrikes in Syria at a time and place of our choosing,” a senior administration official told reporters while previewing Obama’s speech Wednesday. “This is something the president has decided to do. We will take action on the Syrian side of the border to degrade ISIL. But we’re not going to telegraph our punches.”
• Increased support to allied forces on the ground. Obama said he is sending an additional 475 troops to Iraq to assist Iraqi Security Forces, as well as the Kurdish peshmerga, with training, intelligence, and equipment.
Obama also said he’s asking Congress to grant his administration the authority to arm and train moderate factions of the Syrian opposition that are fighting both ISIS and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its people; a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL,” Obama said.
• Counterterrorism. Obama outlined a coalition-based effort to “prevent” ISIS attacks by working to cut off its funding, improving intelligence-gathering, making a push to counter its “warped ideology,” and stopping the flow of foreign fighters joining the group.
• Continued humanitarian assistance. Obama said the U.S. and allies must continue to provide humanitarian support to groups threatened by ISIS — Sunni and Shia Muslims, as well as Christian minorities. “We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.”
All four pieces of the strategy lead to one main objective, which Obama said was clear: “We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL.”
Obama said he was confident that, on all four elements of his strategy, the U.S. would be joined by a broad base of allies.
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