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Obama to Outline Strategy Against IS Militants

  • Aru Pande

U.S. President Barack Obama says he will soon outline his "game plan" for dealing with the threat posed by Islamic State militants.

In an interview with NBC's Meet the Press, Obama said in a speech later this week he will lay out to the American people the need to "go on the offense" against the extremist group that has taken control of parts of Iraq and Syria.

Obama made clear in the NBC interview that aired Sunday that the United States would not act alone but would be part of an international coalition to carry out airstrikes and support Iraqi and Kurdish troops fighting Islamic State (also known as ISIL) militants on the ground.

"We are going to be able to not just blunt the momentum of ISIL, we are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We're going to shrink the territory that they control. And ultimately we are going to defeat them," said Obama.

Speak to Americans

The president said after meeting congressional leaders on Tuesday, he will speak directly to the U.S. public on Wednesday to ensure they understand the nature of the threat posed by the Islamic State group and how the United States will deal with it

Obama repeated that Islamic State extremists do not pose an immediate threat to the U.S. homeland, but if allowed to control more territory, amass more resources and recruit more foreign fighters, the militant group could pose a more serious one over time.

The president made clear he will not be announcing the return of American ground troops to Iraq in his speech Wednesday, which will take place a day before the 13th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"Not every regional terrorist organization is automatically a threat to us that would call for a major offensive. Our goal should not be to think that we can occupy every country where there is a terrorist organization," said Obama.

His plan to address the American public comes after he drew criticism for telling reporters at the White House on August 28 that he had "no strategy yet" on combating the extremist group in Syria and had asked U.S. military leaders to provide a "range of options."

Those remarks came just days after the Islamic State militants released a video showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley.

The militants have since released a video showing the beheading of another U.S. journalist, Steven Sotloff.

Regional assets

Obama said in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad has "foregone legitimacy," the United States will continue to support the moderate opposition in their fight against the Islamic State, while also urging Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey to "step up" their involvement in fighting the Sunni extremist group.

In the Meet the Press interview, the president also addressed the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, where the virus has already killed more than 2,000 people.

He said the U.S. military would be able to help in the fight to curb the spread of Ebola.

"We're going to have to get U.S. military assets just to set up, for example, isolation units and equipment there, to provide security for public health workers surging from around the world," said Obama.

One issue the president will not be dealing with immediately is carrying out any executive actions on immigration.

Obama said he would not take up the matter until after the November congressional elections to ensure the American public understands the facts and what the administration has done so far to address the thousands of unaccompanied Central American children on the U.S. southern border.

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