TALLINN, Estonia - President Obama has condemned the beheading of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff, saying "we will not be intimidated … justice will be done."
But he offered a mixed message today about what exactly the United States wants to do about ISIS.
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At first, the president offered what seemed to be an unambiguous goal. "The bottom line is this: Our objective is clear and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL so it is no longer a threat," he said.
That would be an expansion of what the president and top White House officials have said previously. They have steadfastly avoided saying the goal of U.S. policy is the destruction of ISIS, instead citing more modest objectives: protecting Americans, protecting Iraqi infrastructure, stopping a humanitarian disaster, etc.
But when ABC News Radio White House correspondent Ann Compton today asked the president to clarify whether the United States now wants ISIS destroyed, the president seemed to significantly backtrack.
"Our objective is to make sure they aren't an ongoing threat to the region," he said.
Then, in response to another question, he seemed to backtrack even further: "We know that if we are joined by the international community, we can continue to shrink ISIL's sphere of influence, its effectiveness, its military capability to the point where it is a manageable problem."
Making ISIS a "manageable problem" sounds like a far cry from destroying it.