(CNSNews.com) – President Obama laid out a four-part strategy Wednesday night to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL), saying he will not hesitate to extend airstrikes to Syria.
“I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” he said. “That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
In a prime time speech coming against a backdrop of his worst-ever opinion poll ratings, Obama said America will lead “a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.”
The strategy would encompass “a systematic campaign of airstrikes”; support for forces on the ground fighting against ISIS; a counterterrorism effort including cutting off funding, stemming the flow of foreign fighters, strengthening defenses and countering ISIS’ “warped ideology”; and continuing to provide humanitarian aid for ISIS’ victims.
Obama, who ran for office pledging to end two wars, said he wanted Americans “to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
“It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil,” he said. “This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground.”
“This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years,” Obama continued, alluding to the use of drone-launched missiles to target and kill terrorists.
“And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to the international order.”
On the eve of the 13th anniversary of the al-Qaeda attack on America, a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 47 percent of Americans believe the nation to be less safe now than at any other point since September 11, 2001.
As he opened his address at the White House, Obama pushed back on that perception.
“Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer,” he said, citing the death of Osama bin Laden, the targeting of al-Qaeda leaders in South Asia, Yemen and Somalia, and the troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan.
He went on to acknowledge, however, that “we continue to face a terrorist threat.”
“We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge..
“At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain. And one of those groups is ISIL, which calls itself the Islamic State.”