President Obama: America to “Degrade”, “Destroy” ISIS

President Barack Obama pledged to defeat the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, or ISIS or ISIL) in a speech from the State Floor of the White House on Wednesday night.

“Our objective is clear:  We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy”, he said.

The President laid out a four-point plan to eradicate the terrorist group. He said that the United States would continue airstrikes, expanding them beyond the current mission of defending American personnel and assets and aiding endangered populations. Further airstrikes would include providing cover for the Iraqi military as they fight IS. He included the possibility of targeting IS in Syria, and elsewhere if need be. “If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven”, he said.

In addition to airstrikes, the President said he would send additional military forces to Iraq to serve as advisors to the Iraqi military and assist with training. However, he said that the U.S. military would not engage in conflicts on the ground. Likewise, he asked Congress to authorize him send equipment and military officials to train opponents of the regime in Syria, where IS also operates.

President Obama also pledged to continue various counterterrorism measures, such as preventing the movement of terrorists to and from the region and preventing terrorist groups from acquiring funding. The last part of the President’s strategy is to continue to humanitarian assistance to populations affected by IS.

The President said that the anti-IS efforts would include “a broad coalition of partners”, stating that other countries were already assisting in the fight. Secretary of State John Kerry will be travelling in Europe and the Middle East to secure additional support as well.

Aside from requesting permission to provide additional assistance to opponents of the Syrian government, the President asserted that he had the authority take the actions laid out. “I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL, but I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together”, he said.

After the speech, Speaker of the House John Boehner issued a statement saying, “While the president presented a compelling case for action, many questions remain about the way in which the president intends to act.” He criticized the President for seeing “the effort against ISIL as an isolated counterterrorism campaign, rather than as what it must be: an all-out effort to destroy an enemy that has declared a holy war against America and the principles for which we stand.”

The response from other Members of Congress to the different elements of the President’s plan was mixed. Some were concerned about the length and scope of the campaign. Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado said, “I will not give this President—or any other President—a blank check to begin another land war in Iraq.” Others were divided on the President’s decision to provide aid to Syrian anti-regime insurgents aid. Senator Mark Begich of Alaska said he currently is against the plan, while Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina favored it. Both are Democrats in tough reelection campaigns.

According to The Hill, the House Republicans have not come to a consensus about whether or not to support the President’s plan to provide military aid to the Syrian rebels. Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Representative Ed Royce, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, argued in favor of the move, but some are concerned that munitions might fall into the hands of IS and are unsure that the groups receiving the aid are trustworthy. According to The Wall Street Journal, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he and his colleagues should vote on legislation to aid the Syrian rebels before Congress departs for the midterm campaigns.




The White House: Statement by the President on ISIL

Speaker John Boehner: Destroying This Terrorist Threat Requires Decisive Action

The Washington Post: Reaction to President Obama’s Speech About the Islamic State

The Hill: House Punts Syria Decision as Talk Turns to October Session

The Wall Street Journal: Lawmakers Support Obama’s Call for Action, But Some Seek More

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