Nearly one month ago, President Barack Obama admitted the United States did not “yet have a complete strategy” to defeat the Islamic State.
Today, after meeting with his top military brass and senior administration officials in a rare visit to the Pentagon, the president outlined a strategy, step-by-step, that he believes will be a winning approach over time.
The president did not call for more bombs or more troops, but instead announced a shifting focus to counter ISIL’s public relations machine while training local forces to sustain progress made on the ground there.
“There's a cause, a coalition that's united countries across the globe, some 60 nations including Arab partners,” Obama said, flanked by his top military advisers at the Pentagon briefing room. “Our comprehensive strategy against ISIL is harnessing all elements of American power across our government — military, intelligence, diplomatic, economic development, and perhaps most importantly the power of our values.”
While the vast majority of the coalition's airstrikes have focused on targets in Iraq, Obama also signaled a growing emphasis on targets in Syria.
"Indeed, we're intensifying our efforts against ISIL's base in Syria," he said. "Our airstrikes will continue to target the oil and gas facilities that fund so much of their operations.”
Although the president exuded confidence in the revised blueprint, he warned that victory will not come quickly and will require the collaboration of opposition forces that have sometimes been hesitant to join fight against ISIS, also known as ISIL.
“This will not be quick. This is a long-term campaign. ISIL is opportunistic, and it is nimble,” he said. “It will take time to root them out and doing so must be the job of local forces on the ground, with training and air support from our coalition.”
Obama asserted that ISIS is “surrounded by countries and communities committed to its destruction” but overcoming the Islamic State’s grip on power will require more than a military effort.
“In short, ISIL's recent losses in both Syria and Iraq prove that ISIL can and will be defeated,” Obama said.
“Our strategy recognizes that no amount of military force will end the terror that is ISIL unless it's matched by a broader effort, political and economic, that addresses the underlying conditions that have allowed ISIL to gain traction,” he added. “They have filled a void and we have to make sure that, as we push them out, that void is filled.”
Last month, the president conceded that the administration’s strategy fell short of one required to defeat ISIS, but he promised his military advisers were working on additional options for him to review.
"We don't yet have a complete strategy," Obama said June 8 at the G7 summit of world leaders in Germany. "The details of that are not yet worked out."
As he concluded his remarks at the Pentagon today, Obama said there are “no current plans” to send additional combat forces into the region, although that issue is not one that the president discussed with his military and national security advisers. Nevertheless, he left the option on the table, telling reporters he would "do whatever it takes" to defend the United States of America.