“I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” the president said from the White House. “This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
The president vowed to expand the air campaign beyond its original two missions: protecting Americans and providing humanitarian aid. Now, airstrikes will be used a part of a broader effort to “roll back” ISIS in Iraq.
The military will not be constrained by the Syrian border, Obama said. The U.S. plans to “hunt down terrorists who threaten our country wherever they are” – including in Syria.
The president plans to send an additional 475 U.S. service members to Iraq to assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting ISIS there. Troops will build on the work of assessment teams already in place in Baghdad and Erbil, teams embedded with Iraqi security forces, and existing surveillance assets, but will not be introduced into combat.
“We will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq,” the president assured the American people. “Anytime we take military action, there are risks involved, especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions,” he acknowledged, adding that this effort “will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.”
Obama also called on Congress to authorize “ramping up” a mission to equip and train the moderate Syrian opposition.
“I have the authority to address the treat from ISIL,” Obama declared. Nevertheless, the president requested Congressional support, saying, “I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together.”
The U.S. will draw on a range of counterterrorism tactics to prevent attacks on the homeland, including cutting off ISIS's funding and improving American intelligence.
It will also take steps to counter ISIS’ “warped” ideology, Obama vowed. “Let’s make two things clear,” said the president. “ISIL is not ‘Islamic.’ No religion condones the killing of innocents … [ISIS] is a terrorist organization, pure and simple.”
The U.S. will work to “stem the flow of foreign fighters” traveling to and from the region, President Obama promised.
In the interest of protecting ancient communities, such as Iraqi Christians, the United States’ humanitarian efforts will continue, Obama said.