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Obama to Americans: Islamic State is Losing Ground

  • Mary Alice Salinas

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks after attending a National Security Council meeting on the counter-Islamic State campaign accompanied by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter (C) at the Pentagon in Washington

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks after attending a National Security Council meeting on the counter-Islamic State campaign accompanied by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter (C) at the Pentagon in Washington

President Barack said Monday that he is "confident" the U.S.-led coalition will prevail in its battle against the Islamic State, adding that the militant group is losing ground and its leaders have no place to hide.

"Our message to them is simple: 'You are next,' " he said in a strongly worded statement at the Pentagon after meeting Monday with his national security team on the latest efforts to counter IS.

The president sought to reassure Americans after a deadly attack in San Bernardino, California, earlier this month by a married couple believed to have been inspired by IS, and a bloody massacre in Paris by extremists in November.

The U.S. will continue to lead the global coalition in the effort, which Obama said is moving forward "with a great sense of urgency.”

​Obama announced no change in strategy but said coalition forces will continue to search for and kill terrorist leaders, and train and equip Iraqi forces and some of the opposition fighters in Syria who are battling Islamic State militants.

In addition, the U.S. will keep working to disrupt the group's recruitment of fighters, finance operations and propaganda campaigns.

Finally, Obama said, the U.S. will keep up diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the civil war in Syria and bring about a political transition so the coalition can keep its focus on destroying the Islamic State group.

‘We will wipe them out’

During a rare trip to the Pentagon, the president received an update from his national security team on counter-IS efforts.

After the meeting, Obama said the Islamic State has lost thousands of miles in Syria and ground in Iraq. As the coalition squeezes the militants in the region, the U.S. leader said, the battle must be relentless, but smart, targeting IS "surgically and with precision."

The coalition is destroying Islamic State fighters, bunkers, heavy weapons and bomb-making factories. "We will wipe them out," Obama vowed, adding that the group has not had a successful major offensive operation in Syria or Iraq since midyear.

Moreover, people in the region are seeing the Islamic State "for the thugs and the thieves they are," Obama said, adding that their brutality is repelling local populations.

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US, coalition efforts

Meanwhile, the U.S. will continue to work to further build up international contributions to the coalition's effort to defeat IS.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is heading to the Middle East to secure more military contributions. At home, the Department of Homeland Security is updating its emergency alert system to help Americans stay vigilant and safe, said the president.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the president spoke Monday to reassure Americans that the administration is "hard at work" to ensure they are safe and to demonstrate that great progress has been made in the effort to combat the terror group.

Particularly after the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, questions have been raised about the effectiveness of the Obama administration's strategy to degrade and destroy the Islamic State.

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