The Islamic State is “a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way,” he said, accurately describing the brutal group that has won territory, oil and vast wealth in a bloody, swift campaign across Syria and Iraq over the last several months. Given that many of the militants appear to be Western-born fighters, there are fears that the radicals could one day strike closer to home.
“If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region – including to the United States,” he said.
“America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” Obama said. “Our objective is clear: we will degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State.
To do so, the U.S. will pursue a four-pronged strategy that includes “a systematic campaign of airstrikes” that could take place in both Syria and Iraq; increased support of partner forces on the ground, counterterrorism efforts to include cutting off funding and stemming the flow of fighters; and continuing humanitarian assistance to those displaced by fighting.
Middle East audiences were clearly not Obama’s intended target — it was the dead of night there as the president gave his prime-time speech. And with a war-weary American public in mind, the president said that this fight would not be akin to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Not surprisingly, there was no announcement of U.S. combat troops on the ground. Instead, the campaign would be waged using U.S. air power and supporting Iraqi forces on the ground.