US to Increase Offensive Against ISIS

Defense Department official discusses Obama's plan to degrade the capabilities of the militant group.
38:05 | 09/12/14

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Transcript for US to Increase Offensive Against ISIS
I'm Susan -- only in Washington. Word a short time ago that retired general John Allen has been tapped by President Obama to lead the global coalition against ices. Most recently general Allen was commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan. The president has outlined his plan to destroy -- is the terrorist group responsible for the murder of at least two Americans. And which has taken control of large parts of Syria and Iraq. Now the hard part making good on that promise. Pentagon Press Secretary rear admiral John Kirby is speaking to reporters right now let's listen in. In honor of POW MIA national recognition day. Secretary -- will be joined by his former senate colleague fellow Vietnam veteran and current secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission Max Cleveland. As the secretary has made clear a number of times. He believes in and sharing and that we responsibly account for and recover missing service members as a solemn responsibility. And he -- as a very personal commitment as well secondary that he's looking forward to speaking to an audience that would include families and friends. And the missing former POWs members of congress veterans and representatives of the major Stanley and veterans service organizations. That I'll take questions. Several. In regard to the president's -- And -- particular. New differentiate or explain it. Degree of that the air defenses that horrible are being considered. You know or. Being studied in eastern -- Syria as opposed to rest of the country -- other -- how much more public much deeper more concerning. Part of the country. Not. -- It'd be difficult for me to speak. With great detail to the air defense systems of another -- We said all along that. Syria does possess continues to. Possess sophisticated air defense capabilities. Where they put them -- how they moved him around is. Is difficult to say would would any great certainty Odyssey year air defense systems are normally placed. In -- -- What what a country believes to be its most vulnerable locations or where in fact they think these air defense systems can could have the most effect. Generally speaking. The eastern part of the country is more desolate more remote less critical infrastructure there. Then in the western part of the country so generally speaking. One would -- Assumed that. That most of their air defense systems are are based around around the west and around major facilities and major. Cities. That said Bobbie you know this many air defense systems are mobile and can be moved thank you -- pretty rapidly so. I really don't have up a perfect sense of what the air defense picture looks like and Syrian. But I think the implication your question is. To what degree are we considering that when we consider plans for potential air strikes and in Syria and what I would say to that. Would be that obviously we we we want -- as we plan and prepare. For the possibility of conducting. Air strikes across a border were obviously factoring in. Every possible contingency. That we can't Force Protection is obviously a very high priority for us we and no matter. Where or when. And here considering the use of of strikes. Do you you have to factor in. Defensive capabilities that could for those those efforts. Debt -- your question yes. Thank you on the strategies specifically -- do military commanders really believe that prices can be defeated or destroyed with US air power alone. And without sending US. Combat troops for US troops in the field. To raise these targets to find these targets this one the criticisms if you can't. Rely on others to do it and without having these -- in the field you're not gonna happen accurate picture of -- The short answer your question just -- in his yes but Melanie try to explain what I mean by that we've said all along secretary -- who has been very clear. That there's not going to be a purely military solution. Two day. This threat that IS IL poses. In the region specifically inside Iraq there's not going to be a military solution here. We have been conducting airstrikes now for. A number of weeks I think we're up over almost almost a 160 of them. They have. Help provide some space. Come and support to Iraqi Security Forces on the ground as well as Kurdish forces -- north. But military. Measures are not going to be enough. And so. -- -- thing it I would say is it it's we've been able to do these very effective and have and we know having a tactical effect on. IS -- we've been able to do that without quote unquote. -- combat boots on the ground. -- You're gonna wrap up airstrikes regret I think you can expect that we will be more aggressive going forward. But -- in pretty aggressive so far -- nearly -- 160. All very effective. And and effective without needing. US troops and a combat role on the ground. In Iraq commander she's been very clear. We're not gonna do that and that's not part of the military mission going forward the other point and I think it's. You know we need to consistently make this is that. That the destruction of IS IL and their capabilities. He's going to require more than just airpower. We've been very honest about that. And it's going to require partners on the ground. To take back and hold the territory that this group. Has tried and and -- and -- -- to -- obtain and maintain. It also is going to take the ultimate destruction other ideology. And that's a debt that also can't be done just to military means alone that has to be done through good governance both in Iraq and Syria we talked about that and in. A -- -- political process so that that the people that are falling -- to this radical ideology. Are no longer drawn to. So that's -- that's really the long term answer. People would be surprised though to hear you say that there is no military solution given nature of vices I mean this is primary is primarily a military. Strategy that not what is farm -- -- -- to defeat and destroy I -- has been done militarily doesn't. And how does not it cannot be done simply militarily. And this is not of this is not an army. This is a terrorist group how they had they behave in many ways militarily. There unlike other terrorist groups that we had to deal with this for because -- concerned about grabbing and holding ground. Being in control infrastructure developing -- streams of revenue. And they have these these visions of of governance of their own. Brutal as it -- But they're not an army and we have been very consistent from the the very beginning of this Justin that those -- military component to this strategy. But it's only a component. And it it's not. Eight. The challenge that I style poses -- she's -- clear about that secretary tables and clear that chairman -- she's. Military. Theorists and planners could use a concept called center of gravity when looking ahead the Syrian troops and -- Vulnerability points if crisis is not army. What -- centers of gravity. Weren't layman's language weak points that can be successfully attacked. To -- the rest of the process to unfold. Your ideology. -- ideology and then when you talk about center of gravity. In military terms and again I don't wanna. An attractive. Ascribe to this group. The characteristics -- the traits of of an army. Or -- military. But let's just for argument sake. Use your logic I think it's their ideologies -- center of gravity it is what. Did the center of gravity in military terms is the one thing that an enemy -- That without which they lose all their strength and legitimacy so whenever that is. We believe that's their ideology and back to my answer to just and that's not gonna be defeated through military means alone. It's gonna take time -- it's -- good governance responsive politics both in Iraq -- answer. -- -- -- -- -- Carson center of gravity which is ideology. That the strikes in the role would be what our role is to degrade their capabilities. Which we continue to do. To support. Indigenous forces. Hit a -- and hopefully in Syria. To take the fight to them and we said it before this is ultimately a fight that in particular in Iraq that the Iraqis have to take on have to win. Not to take ground away from them to take legitimacy away from them and -- completely degrade their capabilities destroy their capabilities. To continue to wage war on the Iraqi People. Question three weeks to three weeks ago the president authorized surveillance flights over Syria. He gave the authorization and that time since the since then. How -- that tight -- picture of the ground. A group of core -- still grounded. Operation since eastern Syria. Improved. I'm not day -- a talk about intelligence issues here from. From the podium. -- -- where -- will go is I'll tell you that obviously. In any preparation for military operations you want to have the best situation orders that you can't. 22 Bob's question you want to know as much as you can about what you're up against. And we are in the process of trying to gain that situation awareness. And we're still in the process of trying to game situation wires but I won't talk qualitatively. About about how that process is going on how much longer we have to do it or what we're learning. But. The directions been pretty clear. We're going to be we need to be and will be prepared. To defend American citizens and we're not going to be. Beholden to geographic boundaries in doing that. When it comes to going after -- So in order to be prepared to do that which is our mandate we're gonna -- democratic have as much knowledge of the situation all of it available to commanders as we can't. The president gave its authorization we continue to work -- -- Athens yesterday that 125 personnel and aircraft it was supposed to go to their. That wasn't set yet that's still -- here. And some wondering if their timeline for that in the coming days available. You know ties and also -- wasn't set in place before the president gave his speech on Wednesday. -- That from an HI understand -- asked him -- the 125. Are you saying there were that we haven't set what we're doing. My understanding from this film is set yet figured out which assets -- -- move over -- And which personality and -- wouldn't hurt them. We are still working through some of the sourcing solutions width that 125. Personal presence -- go to revealed to support. Intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance actions. There are still some sourcing solutions that that have to be resolved. That said were working at that very very hard and I think as I said yesterday. Did in the next week or so you're gonna start to see. Elements of that 475. That the president announced a start to -- in what was your second question was this. I'm part of the strategy second place -- I think it's challenging this was part of the strategy that the threat. The president announced. In his speech that -- mean the president himself said in his. In his speech that. That inclusive of this comprehensive -- was another 475. I'm just wondering why this wasn't -- likewise with all worked out before he went in front of the American people if that's what we're gonna get. -- -- why -- we know when he gave when he announced at that we're gonna what -- aircraft we -- gonna send. We we. We know very much what the requirements are there are some specifics sourcing. Elements that still need to be worked out but they're -- be worked out very very soon. And there's not going to be any major delay in getting those people -- -- -- -- into Iraq as -- the president's direction. It it is needs updated assessment on the numbers the fighting -- for -- this. From the earlier estimate of 101000 to 22 range down toward 31500. Given the president's commitment to his speech on Wednesday to degrade and destroy this fighting force and while I know it's not purely military solution -- -- certainly military component to this. But keeping that commitment. How does that increased number of estimated number -- his fighters affect your assessment. Good to -- And the intensity of operations necessary to accomplish that mission to destroy this fighting force now that the estimate is that much greater. We have we have been looking at the threat. Posed by -- to very clear -- Very clear answer -- -- nobody is underestimated the threat that they -- inside the region or even to western targets as well. And we certainly support the intelligence communities estimates in terms of that their size. But nobody underestimating. The challenge that is ahead of us as. I've said though there's there's there's not going to be a US military solution here that we've got to have willing partners on the ground politically and -- -- In Iraq and it will eventually in Syria. It doesn't the then. The 20000 to 31500. Estimate doesn't necessarily change in our view from a military perspective given that. Given that we are one component of an overall strategy doesn't change that. Our estimate of the secretary's belief that this is going to be a long term struggle now we can't. And you it would be irresponsible for me to. Put a date certain -- -- it's going to be three year five or six years. More fighters to to degrade and destroy. Were not just simply about degrading and destroying. Then the individuals the twenty to 30000 it's about degrading and destroying -- capabilities to attack. Targets particularly western targets it's about destroying their ideology so. While the the numbers certainly got bigger and that certainly. Intensifies. The scope of the enemy that you're facing. I don't think there's a there's a direct line between that. And the duration of the conflict or the difficulty of the conflict -- everybody here. And the Pentagon knows what we're up against and -- taken -- various yours. One -- about ally support secretary Kerry as you know is in the region. Principally to get allies on board to -- a lot of things you're talking about but would also contribute to the military effort and based on the public statements about in these countries. They're not exactly chomping at the bit. To join him I would including on this this -- to have boots on the ground in some capacity I'm just curious. He is the US is the Pentagon prepared to take the lion's share of the burden for the military effort. On its back if these partners don't pony up. Two thoughts here one is again we're looking at this. And that and. The question team seems a look at this through just military. -- and this is much bigger than a military effort. But putting that aside the United States is leading. This effort to build and sustain and a coalition of willing partners and that's the key word Jim willing partners. Everybody pass to come to this effort. With what they -- where and when they can. And when we move from sector and it just was over in Georgia and we had -- stop in -- In his message to both countries work. We we ask you did you which you can't. Whatever that is and we're not -- come with a specific question hand. And some countries have signed up for. More aggressive kinetic activity than others. Some are willing to to do transportation of assistance some are willing to contribute voluntarily to the effort. Others are are are willing to. To participate in more aggressive than military actions that they all have to speak for themselves it's windy our place to do that. That said we are seeing the coalition -- in size and scope secretary Kerry was in the Middle East yesterday and the united read that communique coming out of general. Many Arab nations now agreed that this is an issue they have to help deal with them that -- woman to chip -- but -- -- gonna do it in their own -- You said lion's share I would say leadership the United States particularly united states military. Intends to and will continue to lead this coalition -- again military issues -- component. Here. We're gonna take you now from the Pentagon to the daily reporters briefing by white house Press Secretary Josh Earnest it's underway. But Turkish officials but also public comments from Turkish officials that they are concerned and rightly so. About the instability and violence. That has been created. By IS IL. This is obviously all occurring right on the doorstep of Turkey. And they are -- concerned. The I understand that the secretary of state is. -- actually there today I believe. To meet with with Turkish officials and his counterparts the president the opportunity to visit with. Prison heir to one at -- of the summit last week. Secretary of defense. Chuck Hagel was in Turkey -- beginning -- this week sets an indication of the thorough. Consultation is under way between United States and Turkey to discuss with them what role. They can play and how they can contribute to this broader international coalition. We certainly welcome the partnership and alliance that we have with Turkey. And look forward to. Their efforts to join with the international community. To meet this threat. Yesterday you. You mention that one way. In Iraq and Syria. When you say it was a necessary we'll -- back. Right and authority. Does the president intend to send congress -- revised. Provider news. Won't even know you feel. Well at at this point we have not. And I don't know of any planned to do so at this point. As you pointed out. It is the view of this administration in the president's national security team specifically. That additional authorization from congress is not required. I think he has the authority that he needs to order military actions that he hats TD grade and ultimately. Destroy yes I -- -- that will be done in coordination with a broader international coalition. It will not include. US troops being placed into ground combat in Iraq. Or Syria. That all said. The president would welcome. Support from congress up for this strategy. There are a variety of ways that congress could indicate -- support and the president believes that this support. For this indication of support would be beneficial because it would demonstrate to our allies and to our enemies. That the United States -- united. As in pursuit of -- the strategy. To degrade and destroy yes I -- -- -- The Associated Press reporting. -- -- mark -- -- -- -- -- Delivery after -- final. Back. -- deportations are enforcement action and those enforcement actions are made by law enforcement officials. At the Department of Homeland Security. To these -- this -- -- that is mandated. By the White House these are enforcement decisions that are carried out. By law enforcement officials at the Department of Homeland Security. However I do think that these numbers do reflect. Something that the president has talked about a little bit which is that as we confronted. A situation at the border earlier this summer. A situation that has abated. But at one point earlier this summer there was concern about having the needed -- -- -- to deal with a a surge that we had seen along the southwest border as it relates to. Children who are attempting to enter the country. -- we're not traveling with an adult. And the president did indicate. That we. As -- administration would shift resources from the interior of the country to the border to supplement our efforts to secure the border. And process the cases of those have been apprehended apprehended at the border attempting to gain entry into the country. That and the shifting of those resources may have something to do with those numbers. But that is not. But again this those numbers reflect the enforcement activities. Of law enforcement officials at the Department of Homeland Security. -- -- -- on extending. You see that lawmakers are expected to extend the charter high mormons. And I'm wondering whether whether it's and probably. That tax expense. -- -- thing that we had indicated. Is that it was incredibly important for congress to reauthorize. The acts and bank. It the bank plays a key role in creating jobs and stimulating economic growth. There are many businesses large and small across the country that benefit from the activities of the -- and thing. And this is. Support for the ex im bank has traditionally been a bipartisan. Proposition. In the past -- -- quotes from people like President Reagan himself. Who signed legislation to reauthorize the bank. At the time President Reagan articulated. The variety of reasons why the accident was beneficial for the American economy -- important to American job creation. That is also why. Organizations like chamber of commerce that don't often agree with the president's policies do in this case support presidents. Congress's. Acts and bank should be -- concern. Traffic. -- Well this is re authorizing the bank is the responsibility -- -- -- congress -- there have been efforts underway. To. Pass legislation to reauthorize it. It is the view of the administration that debate should be re authorized because the important role it plays and and in stimulating economic growth and creating jobs that as it relates to -- went -- -- time. Over which. For which the bank is -- authorized we've not taken a position on that. Our view it's just that the export import bank does work it's important for the American economy and for American job creation an action should continue to do that work. And on a -- that sanctions and -- Presented the way -- about the financial impact these fixes. US energy companies. Well we're -- when it comes to sanctions with the United States is focused on is acting in. Coordination with our allies. Particularly our allies in Europe. The the impact of these sanctions is always. Implemented. In a way to maximize the impact on the Russian economy. To minimize the impact on the American economy. And insure or at least do our best to make sure. That American businesses are not put any significant. Disadvantage. Vis a vis their competitors in other countries. That are not. We are working closely with the United States on -- sanctions regime so there's that there is an element of coordination here that does. That does play a role in decisions that are made about sanctions regimes that are put in place. We believe that the sanctions regime that has been put in place again in. In concert with -- European allies. Will focus the impact on the Russian economy. Will. Reduce the exposure that American businesses have to two. To businesses that may try to gain the system in a way that would give them an unfair advantage. But we are certain acts. Are we are confident that this new round of sanctions. Will have. Economic costs for Russia. And they are indicative of the international community's resolve. To. Standing up for the territorial integrity of the people of Ukraine. Ensuring that all countries including Russia. Abide by generally accepted international norms that relate to the sovereignty of independent nations. Could move relevant justice. This here but it pregnant. All told about three we -- you guys what they view. -- time. Joining me now from the Pentagon ABC's Louis Martinez. It looks reaction there to the appointment of general John Allen to lead the global coalition against crisis. Well let's clarify exactly what John Allen in any -- is John Allen has it been appointed as a presidential envoy. -- it is coalition that is going to take on prices he's actually going to report directly to secretary of state John Kerry. And he is going to be basically the middleman between the coalition. That the United States is gathering against crisis. And -- -- -- then what the rebels on the ground need to know what are the battlefield means of the rebels as well as the coalition. And he's -- -- between them and the -- -- to try to match up. Supply and demand so that's what he's going to be doing now John Allen a -- -- much experience here at the Pentagon -- He had years of experience in the Middle East he was deputy commander at this US Central Command which overseas and military operations for the US. In the Middle East and as you said he was most recently. The senior commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan so he's got a lot of experience he brings to the table. And he has relationships. With the situation in Syria because after he left active duty with the military. He also became the administration's. Point man -- very quiet level. With the issue of Syria so he's already got this experience with Syria and plus the the gravitas that he brings the table. Okay now is action against the Syrian targets in minutes. It doesn't appear that -- -- BK is what the United States is trying Indian military's trying to gathering intelligence. About the movements and locations of -- Hot -- with in Syria itself that they could potentially target in the future. -- so what said the kind of target -- they're looking for our supply areas supply routes where houses training camps. They have to gather all of this thing develop patterns. Of how -- fighters operate inside Syria and then potentially down the road we could see a development what that the military calls strike package. How long that's -- package will take a developing could be weeks. -- it might take a little longer. We've heard pentagon officials say that they want to get it right that they want to get the proper amount of information. But think the -- -- -- need to keep here Europe and admiral John courteous during his briefing is that the United States is taking the threat from -- seriously. And that it doesn't -- the timetable doesn't really matter as much as the fact that they're taking them on. Ultimately is this new offensive really any different from the airstrikes that began in August. The airstrikes are gonna continue and their their frequency much is going to be expanded. In this in this sense of where they operate right now they've been limited to -- core areas near the Mosul dam which is. Iraq's second to -- Iraq's largest scam. -- and was considered a threat to American civilians down river area. In them Baghdad -- US embassy is co located on the banks. The Tigris River. And also that there is also the restriction that US airstrikes could insist Kurdish forces or Iraqi forces in defending her -- And humanitarian. Purposes. By the lifting those restrictions. You -- American fighter aircraft. A broadening the scope of where they can attack and basically on and in an offensive operations in tandem with operations on the ground. By Iraqi Security Forces. So they are going to be striking an -- is targets. And a broader areas and those three areas and talked about which is in Mosul dam the Haditha dam an -- Howard -- But win that actually gonna happen it looks more like it's targets of opportunity as theorize that you can see an American aircraft. Taking on those -- we heard John Kirby saying. That there of the US as -- US is conducted about a 160 airstrikes. Cents a August 8 when they first began. In support of operations near -- Maybe those numbers will wrap -- genetically me me me me not. But either way what's important is that the scope. -- the legal restrictions on those airstrikes have been lifted. -- President Obama seemed to say on Wednesday that he wanted congressional approval but it is going ahead with the attack anyway. Is there any sense -- that they need congress to support to get this started. Well it's a dual approach it indicates the important thing -- what he's talking about authorization. For the air strikes an authorization for training the moderates -- -- rebels two distinct things he says that he does not need further approval. Or authorization -- rather from congress for. To conduct airstrikes both inside Iraq and inside Syria either using what's called the authorize use of military force for 2001 to take on al-Qaeda terrorist. As the rationale for conducting -- -- airstrikes in those two countries. Because that allows -- US. Military to take on terrorists wherever they are anywhere around the world now. He needs specific authorization from congress to enable the US military -- train. Moderate Syrian rebels -- while the US -- -- Milledge with militaries from around the world all the time. But that's because we're dealing with -- militaries of sovereign governments in this case you're going to be training -- rebel force that's going to be debts and nongovernment entity. To take on ices and potentially you know as a side -- here the Asad regime that they're -- battling so you need that specific authorization from congress. Four for that the training program to take place. And he also need congress to pay for that training program once they authorize it and that's about 500 million dollars that the administration has requested. -- yearlong program that -- depending on expects Katrina as many as -- Several thousand. Moderate rebels over the coming year but the most important thing is vetting them and making sure that they really are moderates. Who -- not gonna switches sides and joined now other Islamic fighting groups inside Syria. -- a large part this campaign so far it's been about recruiting other countries. Especially those in the Arab world to join this fight any real success on that front. Well did you know the administration has been -- that this is a broad coalition that involves a European and Arab partners in the Middle East. In the Daryn there are opening yesterday we saw this a declaration -- -- come out of Jeddah. Where secretary Kerry had been meeting with officials a senior officials from Arab governments and he got their support that support has been interpreted as tepid. Now -- significant support that we and I have -- hasn't been publicly stated is that Saudi Arabia is going to be the host country. For this training program for these moderate Syrian rebels. But did the -- it appears that militarily. The Arab countries don't want to get involved with and also we heard that Turkey does not want to get involved militarily. And Turkey very important because it's it's board -- southern borders -- Iraq's. Northern and Syria's northern border. And this kind of -- and that's where this ices. Is getting its flow of foreign fighters coming into the country who are joining its ranks as well as the ranks of other. Fighting forces -- -- Syria. And so the United States wants this year clamp down. That border. But militarily they said that they don't want to participate and kind of -- tepid reaction as well from Arab countries. Now we've heard a lot about degrading ice -- destroying their capabilities over time. Has there been any serious discussion about what happens after -- this is taking out who takes their place. Well I -- is one of several of rebel fighting forces inside -- over the reasoning -- all the international attention is because. They have become an army now is interesting and watch this briefing with that -- finance spokesman and -- Kirby. Where he was asked today whether this is an army are -- taking them on militarily. And he said well this is. We're fighting a terrorist group today and in effect -- other. US officials have talked about how it's a terror group that acts like an army. Well just yesterday the CIA's said that the numbers. Of fighters that I -- -- call -- has increased of between twenty. And 31000. -- gobbling at what the US thought their war. With -- -- is ranked just several months ago. So they seem to be increasing now attorney was saying only that the US -- Defeat. This group pit just -- military force alone it's gonna take a broader approach and diplomatic approach of financial -- And he also pointed out the obvious here that this is these are fighters fighting for an ideology and you have to take on that ideology so. If this is a long process to that we're talking about several years now is what administration officials. Are telling us this operation could last. If that's the case that ultimately this group is destroyed than your right it was -- -- fill the vacuum there are several other Islamic groups inside Syria. That some of them actually affiliated with al-Qaeda the irony here is -- -- taking on a terror group that is not affiliated with al-Qaeda. BK they were dropped from their ranks because al-Qaeda core leadership said they were too brutal that there are taking on. They're -- they're killing. And -- making too many my Muslim killings and that offended them so. There could be other groups that step into the fold it but what remains to be -- really is the dynamic inside Syria but whether the Saudi regime can hold on. And which rebel force is actually going to fill that vacuum. Potentially -- eyes to spot. To that end there seems to be a lot of will to train and arm those so called moderate rebels -- He spoke a little bit about this but how -- the Pentagon and State Department try to get them. Well so far the there's -- some small vetting program already -- -- it's been undertaken by the CIA began last year. They had a they're conducting a very small training program inside Jordan. Because that there was bring in a small number. Rebels train them and then let them return to the battlefield inside Syria to train fellow fighters. That vetting processes taking some time now we're talking about increasing in broadening the number of fighters -- you want to between two to 4000. So how he would do that that's of major questions -- needs to be resolved especially if you want to -- this process up very quickly. One term that effort -- is that this is that that the US is going to be working and working closely with the Free Syrian Army. This is they -- fighting force -- in northwest. Syria that has been determined to be the most moderate faction week of rebel faction within Syria. But ultimately you gonna have to -- them every fighter individually because you you have to be sure and that could be a time consuming process. Thank you so much -- Martinez for joining us from the Pentagon. You can keep up with the battle to beat -- in a real time by downloading the ABC news app and storing this story for exclusive updates on -- -- For now I'm Susan -- only in Washington.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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