President Obama: We Will 'Degrade and Destroy' ISIS

At the NATO Summit, the president explained that "the goal has to be to dismantle" the terrorist group.
36:14 | 09/05/14

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Transcript for President Obama: We Will 'Degrade and Destroy' ISIS
This is an ABC news. -- presidential news conference. Now reporting. George step. Good day we're coming on the air right now because President Obama is wrapping up -- NATO summit in Wales with a press conference. At the top of the agenda the mounting terror threat from the militant group known as racist or ICL. The Islamic state in Iraq and Syria. As you know the group has now executed two American journalist James Foley and -- -- law. That it continued executions Wally as bombs ice is targets at this summit the president has been working to build a coalition to take them line. Ziering in on a strategy -- saint John Kerry said this morning the clock is ticking this has to be done now. BC's chief White House correspondent John -- traveling with the president John the president took some heat at last week's press conference for admitting he had a strategy yet. That's right and secretary Kerry took that criticism head on today. Telling other NATO leaders here. That despite what they may have heard the president is fully committed to taking on -- -- -- he does have a strategy and it involves shot not just the United States and airstrikes in Iraq. But a coalition of countries. Powers in Europe and in the region. But Kerry also said that -- this is a cancer. It cannot be contained. That it must be completely destroyed and George that seem to be quite the contrast to what the president said just two days ago and Estonia. When he talked about. Working and confronting crisis to -- to boot to the point where it's simply a manageable problem. Kerry made it clear today there is no managing the problem -- vice this that -- is a cancer and the only solution is complete destruction. So quite a difference if not in substance certainly in tone between the president of the United States and his secretary of state here. -- because -- for the president present -- expected to address the situation Ukraine. A cease fire between the Russian rebels. And Ukraine announced this morning we'll see if that holds when the president was asked about that. I just the other day he was skeptical of whether or not it would indeed hold but there does seem to be some progress there this morning of course -- NATO summit. Also has been working on the situation in Ukraine and -- go to Martha Raddatz on that as well -- one of the things they've talked about. It's -- set up -- European rapid reaction force that would in part be designed to confront Russian aggression. Just to confront Russian aggression indeed about 4000. -- troops on the ground there to respond to any Russian aggression it also helps those neighbors of Russia. NATO members feel better about this I've been at the training. In Lithuania and Latvia and when you train when the US trains with forces there there's just a morale boost so I think part of this 4000 member. -- coalition there with the rapid reaction force is to really just make the allies feel better picture really don't know what they would actually do. And our -- -- of course I'm Brian -- here's laws and wait for the president -- the White House also announcing. In a major Islamic militant in Africa has been successfully targeted. Yes some good news our men got -- who leads the Al -- -- group which is aligned itself with al-Qaeda in Somalia has been killed according to the US pentagon and the White House. The special forces air strike operation. And this -- the -- his group at least was behind. That mall bombing in Kenya last year Westgate mall attack and take over the killed dozens of people in Kenya he's been a target for some time and this was the result they very well planned operation. And Brian you know we've heard so often about these -- off sheets. The al-Qaeda lost about one of the major -- -- iso. Obviously has also. Group of Islamic militants -- they've had their -- their divisions. With al-Qaeda central right there really almost rivals now trying to outdo each other and they're really worried it will one point in the US that the al-Qaeda group in Pakistan we haven't heard much about. May feel they have to do something to get the attention back to them. British prime minister David Cameron also coming out this weekend and saying that he. Eyes this must be confronted directly has not ruled out airstrikes in Syria one of the other big questions facing the president right now does he expand. The air campaign against -- is in to Syria. As well. And what will that mean for our relationship was here of course series the regime of -- side. Is an enemy of crisis as well -- the United States has ruled -- coordinating with Assad regime that. Italy and intelligence that is are telling us they're looking for any evidence they can find it all signs of those hostages because of indications. -- -- plans to execute them almost won by one. There's growing pressure to do something anything to find a way to save them or he's going to try to get them. And here comes the president. -- Let me begin by thanking my great friend prime mister Cameron. And his entire team for hosting this NATO summit and making it such a success and I want to thank the people of an important part of the people whales for won't be welcoming me and my delegation. So warmly. That's a great honor to be the first. Sitting US president to visit whales. We've met at a time of transition and a time of testing. After more than a decade NATO's combat mission in Afghanistan is coming to an -- Russia's aggression against Ukraine threatens our vision of a Europe that is whole free and at peace. In the Middle East the terrorist threat from Beisel poses a growing danger. -- this summit our alliances summon the will the resources. And the capabilities. To meet all of these challenges. First and foremost we have reaffirmed the central mission of the alliance. Article five and shrines are solemn duty to each other. An armed attack against one Michelle be considered an attack. Against them all. This is a binding. Treaty obligation. It is -- negotiable. And here in Wales we've left absolutely no doubt we will defend. Every -- Second we agreed to be resolute in reassuring our allies in Eastern Europe. Increased NATO air patrols over the baltics will continue. Rotations of additional forces. Throughout the Eastern Europe for training and exercises will continue. Naval patrols in the Black -- will continue. And all 28 NATO nations agreed to contribute all of these measures for as long as necessary. -- To ensure that NATO remains prepared for any contingency we agree to a new readiness action plan. The alliance will update its defense plan. We will create a new highly ready rapid response force that can be deployed on very short notice. Will increase NATO's presence in central and Eastern Europe would additional equipment. Training exercises. And troop rotations. And one billion dollar initiative that I announced in Warsaw will be a strong and on board US contribution. To this plan. -- All 28 NATO nations have pledged to increase their investments in defense. And to move toward investing 2%. Of their GDP in our collective security. These resources will help NATO invest in critical. Capabilities including intelligence. Surveillance reconnaissance. And missile defense. And this commitment makes clear that NATO will not be complacent. Our alliance will reverse the decline in defense spending. And rise to meet the challenges that we face -- for -- -- And territorial integrity and its right to defend itself. The backed up this commitment all 28 NATO allies will now provide security assistance to Ukraine. This includes non lethal support to the Ukrainian military like body -- armor. Fuel and medical care for wounded Ukrainian troops as well as assistance to help modernize. Ukrainian forces including logistics. And command and control. Here in -- we also sent a strong message to Russia that actions have consequences. Today the United States and Europe are finalizing measures to deepen and broaden our sanctions across. Russia's financial energy and defense sectors. The same time we strongly support -- -- -- -- efforts to pursue a peaceful resolution. Of the conflict in this country. The cease -- announced today can advance fickle. But only if there is follow through on the ground. Pro Russian separatists must keep their commitments. And Russia must stop its violations of Ukraine's sovereignty. And territorial integrity. Beyond you're. We pay tribute to all those from -- -- -- mission. Including more than 2200. Americans who have given their lives for a security in Afghanistan. NATO's combat mission ends in three months. And we are prepared to a transition to a new mission. Focused on training advising and assisting Afghan security forces. Both presidential candidates have pledged to sign the bilateral -- bilateral security agreement that would be the foundation. Of our continued cooperation. But. As we all know the outcome of the recent election must be resolved and so we continue to urge. The two presidential candidates to make the compromises that are necessary. So Afghans can move forward together. And form a sovereign united and democratic nation. Finally we reaffirm that the door to NATO membership remains open to nations that can meet our high standards. We agreed to expand the partnership it makes NATO the -- of global security. We're launching a new effort -- our closest partners including many that have served with us and Afghanistan. To make sure our forces continue to operate together. And will create a new initiative to help countries build their defense capabilities. Starting with Georgia Moldova Jordan. And -- I also leave here confident that NATO allies and partners are prepared. To join in a broad international effort to combat the threat posed by -- Already. Already allies have joined us in Iraq. Where we have stopped missiles advances we've equipped our Iraqi partners and help them go on office. NATO has agreed to play a role in providing security and humanitarian assistance to those were on the front lines. Q NATO allies stand ready to confront this terrorist threat -- military intelligence. And law enforcement as -- diplomatic efforts. And Senator Kerry will now travel to the region to continue building the broad based coalition it will enable us to degrade and ultimately destroy. -- -- Taken together I think the progress we've achieved in -- makes it clear that our alliance will continue to do whatever is necessary. To ensure our collective defense. And to protect our citizens. So without let me. Take a few questions of Starwood Julie pace of the Associated Press. Think this president want to go back to the situation in Ukraine. If this cease fire does take effect in appears to be able -- Would you and your European counterparts back away from these sanctions that you -- you prepared or do you feel that it's important to let -- ease sanctions regardless of this cease fire agreement. And if I -- accident rapid response force. Can you say specifically what it US contributions will be in terms of troop numbers in equipment is it beyond the agreement that you -- the proposals you announced -- -- With -- respect to. The cease fire agreement obviously we are hopeful but based on. Best experience also skeptical. That. In fact the separate -- will follow through and the Russians. Will stop violating Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. So it has to be tested. And I note that the Europeans. Are discussing. At this point the final shape -- sanctions measures. It's my view that if you look at president Portugal's plan. It is going to take some time to implement. And as a consequence. For us to move forward based on what is currently happening on the ground with sanctions. Wall. Acknowledging that if in fact. The elements of the plan that has been cited or implement -- than those sanctions could be left it. Is a more likely way for us to ensure that others follow through. But that's something that obviously will consult closely with our European partners to determine. I do want to point out -- that. The only reason that we're seeing. This cease fire at this moment. Is because of both the -- for the party -- applaud. And the threat of further sanctions which are having a real impact on the Russian economy. And have isolated Russia in -- way that we have not seen in a very long time. The path for Russia. To rejoin. The community of nations that respects international law is still there. And we encourage president we're going to take it. But that unity and the firmness. That we've seen in the trans Atlantic alliance. In supporting Ukraine. In applying sanctions. Has been I think a testimony to how seriously. People take. The basic principle that a big countries can. Just stop on low countries or force them. To change their policies. And and give up their sovereignty so. I'm very. I'm pleased with the the kind of work that's been done throughout this crisis in Ukraine. And -- -- US leadership has been critical. Throughout that process. With respect to the rapid. Response forces and the -- action plan that we put forward. In -- so -- announced one billion dollars in our initiative. They sizable portion of that will be devoted. To implementing. Various aspects of this. This -- action plan. We've already increase obviously rotations. A personnel. In the Baltic States for example. We have to be air policing we have the activities that are taking place. In the Baltic. In the Black Sea but this allows us to supplement it. It allows us to coordinated and integrated further. We have additional contributions from other partners. And what it signifies is NATO's recognition. That in light of recent Russian actions as well as rhetoric. We want to make it crystal clear we mean what we say we're talking about. -- article five commitments. And an increased presence. Serves as the most effective deterrent. To any additional Russian aggression that we might -- -- -- -- -- Thank you Mr. President what are your specific expectations for what regional actors like Saudi Arabia. Yemen and Jordan can legitimately provided to coalition against Islamic state is there -- role there for -- as well. As you know secretary Kerry today said that he expects the allied countries to coalesce around a specific plan by the end of September do you agree with the timeline that he sent out. And what concrete commitments if any are you leaving that summit went from other nations that -- here. Let me -- with a general report. There. Was unanimity over the last two days. I -- poses a significant. Threat. Two NATO members. And there was a recognition that we have to take action. I did not get any resistance or push back. To the basic notion that. We have a critical role to play in rolling back. This savage organization. That is causing so much chaos in the region and is -- so many people. And poses a long term threat. Two the safety and security of NATO members. So. There's great conviction. That we have to act as part of the international community to degrade and ultimately destroy us and that was extremely -- Beyond that what we -- -- scene is. Significant support from a variety of member states. For specific actions that we've been taking in Iraq. Keep in mind we taken already a hundred strikes in Iraq that it. Had a significant impact on degrading their capabilities. And making sure that were protecting. US citizens. Critical infrastructure providing the space for the Iraqi Government. To four. Our hope is that -- -- Iraqi Government. Is actually formed and finalized next week. That that allows us to work with them on a broader strategy. And you know some of the -- assistance has been in the form of airlift. Or humanitarian assistance much of it has been providing additional arms. Two. The -- murder and the Iraqi Security Forces. There's been logistical support intelligence. And surveillance. Reconnaissance support. And so on a variety of folks. -- differently capabilities. Have already made a contribution. I'm confident that we're going to be able to build on that strong foundation and the clear commitment. And have the kind of coalition -- will be required for the sustained effort we need. Two pushed hustle back. Now. John Kerry is going to be traveling to region. To have further consultations with the regional actors and the regional players and I think it is -- critical -- we have. Arab states. And specifically Sunni majority states. That are rejecting the kind of extremist. Not realism that we're seeing -- -- That saved that is not what Islam is about and are prepared to join us actively. In the fight. And -- my expectation is is that we will see. Friends and allies and partners of ours in the region prepared to take action as well as part of a coalition. One of our tests though is also going to be to build. Capability. Well what we've learned in Iraq. Is. Yes I -- has significant capabilities. And they combined terrorist tactics -- traditional. Military tactics. Two significant effect. The part of the problem also is that. We haven't seen as effective fighting force on the part of Iraqi Security Forces. As we need. And we're gonna have to focus on the capable units that are already there. Bolster them. Bolster the work that fresh murder has done we can support them from the air but ultimately. We're gonna need. A strong ground game and we're also gonna need the Sunni tribes. In many of these areas. To recognize that their future is not with the kind of fanaticism that -- represents. So that they start. -- the fight Tyson was well and that's gonna require. The sort of regional partnerships we're talking about in terms -- timetable. We are working deliberately. If you look at what we've done over the last several months we've taken this in stages. First stage is to make sure we -- in -- Iraqi Government. Formation. Second stage was. Making sure that. Building on the intelligence assessments. That we have done. That we were a position to conduct limited airstrikes. To protect our our personnel critical infrastructure. And engage in humanitarian activities. The third phase will allow us. Take the fight to -- will broaden the effort. And -- goal is to. Act with urgency. But also to make sure that we're doing it right. That we have the right targets. That their support on the ground if we take an air strike that we have a strong. Political coalition diplomatic. Effort that is matching and a strong. Strategic communications effort so that we are discouraging people from. Thinking somehow that I sold represents. A state much less -- Celtic. So all those things are gonna have to be combined. And as I -- -- -- happen overnight. But we are steadily moving in the right direction and we -- gonna achieve our goal we are going to degrade and ultimately defeat. -- the same way that we have gone after -- -- at the same way that we have gone after. Would be a couple al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia where. We release today the fact that we've killed the leader. How -- Bob in Somalia. And consistently worked to degrade their operations. There we. There have been very systematic. And methodical. In going after these kinds of organizations that may threaten. US personnel and the homeland. And that deliberation. Allows us to do it right. But I have no doubt. We will continue and I will continue. To do what is necessary to protect the American people and I suppose real threat and I'm encouraged by the fact that our friends and allies recognized that -- -- -- -- Thank you Mr. President I want to follow up on what you're saying about Iceland. Asked. If if you think that. That objective here is to destroy -- degrees are those the same thing your mind is is that school TU. To ultimately -- -- secretary Kerry said that there's no containing them so is the goal ultimately annihilate them and also. You talked about the importance. Expertise on the ground and don't have -- capacity on the ground. Do you think since airstrikes are not going to do it here. If ultimately action is needed Syria. Can you realistically expect the Free Syrian Army to do what's needed on the ground to really registering just push back I saw him. You can't contain. An organization that is running roughshod through that much territory. Causing that much Havoc displacing that many people. Killing that many innocents enslaving. That many women. The goal has to be. To dismantle. And if you look at what happened what al-Qaeda. In the -- where their primary base was. You initially. Push them back. You systematically. Degrade their capabilities. You narrow their scope of action. You slowly shrink. The space the territory. That they may control. You take out their leadership. And over time. -- they are not able to conduct the same kinds of terrorist attacks. As they once could. As I said -- in my last press conference. Given the nature of these organizations. Are there potentially. Remnants. Of an organization -- -- are still running around in hiding. And still potentially plotting. Absolutely. And we will continue to hunt them down the same -- we're doing. With remnants of al-Qaeda in the -- or elements. -- -- -- Bob in Somalia or. Terrorists who operate. Anywhere around the world. But what. We can accomplish. Is to dismantle. This network. This force. That has claimed. To control this much territory. So that they can't do us harm. And and that's going to be our objective. And as I said the -- I'm pleased to see that there's unanimity. Among our friends and allies that that is a worthy goal and they are prepared. To work with us -- accomplishing -- -- respect to the situation on the ground in Syria. We will not be placing US ground troops. To try to control. The areas that are part of the conflict inside a series. I don't think that's necessary for us to accomplish our goal we are going to have to find. Effective partners on the ground to push back against vice. And moderate coalition there is one that we can work with. We and experience working with many of them they have been to some degree -- And out -- And that's why it's important for us to work with our friends and allies to support them more effectively. But keep in mind that when you have. US forces. Other advanced nations. Going after eyesore and putting them on the defensive and putting them on the run. It's pretty remarkable what then ground forces can do. Even if initially. They were. On the defensive against sites so. That is a developing strategy. That we -- to be consulting with our friends our allies original partners. But the bottom line is we will do what is necessary. In order make sure that I -- does not. Threaten the United States or friends and partners. -- -- One last question calling. Circling also bolstered her. -- you Mr. President some senate Democrats are facing tough races in November had asked you to delay action on immigration and how -- concerns and other Democrats influenced your thinking and do you see any downside at this point two delaying -- after the election. -- -- this week I've been pretty visit focused on Ukraine. And focused on. Beisel and focus on making sure that NATO is as boosting its commitments. And and falling -- what's necessary to -- 21 century challenges. And my expectation is that fairly soon. All be considering what the next steps are. What I'm unequivocal about is that. We need immigration reform. That my overriding preference is to see congress act. We had bipartisan action in the senate. House Republicans have sat on -- for over a year that has. Damaged. The economy. It has held America back. It is a mistake. And in the absence of congressional action I intend to take action. To make sure that we're putting more resources on the border. That were operating how we process. These cases. And that we find a way to encourage legal immigration and give people some path so they can start paying taxes and pay a fine and learn English and be able to not local over the shoulder but. Be legal. Since they've been living here for quite some time. So. You know I suspect that -- my flight back this'll be part of my -- my reading. Taking a look at. Some of the specifics that we've looked -- and I'll be making announcements -- but I want to be very clear. My intention is in the absence of in the absence of action by. Congress. I'm gonna do what I can do. Within the legal constraints in my office because -- the right thing to do for the country. All right thank you very much people -- -- I had a wonderful time. President Obama wrapping up his press conference after the NATO summit in -- and -- right there he said at that summit there is unanimity. Among the NATO leaders that I suppose a significant threat. To all of them he said there was no resistance or push back. The idea that there had to be coordinated strategy by that group in -- that ABC's Martha Raddatz. The president said right at the start his goal is to degrade and ultimately defeat destroy -- -- to list the source to the use -- -- destroy defeat dismantle and degrade. The militants. Yes and he said that as a group that can not merely be contained I thought George this was the strongest statement the president has made. I should add to that he's made it before but then he backed off he in no way. Backed off that goal of destroying and degrading -- Crisis as we call it. And he said that they would take the fight. To -- so. And that means the US and its partners are really going on the offense not just defense he has talked again and again particularly in a rock about protecting Americans protecting infrastructure. Now he is saying that prices. Pass to be destroyed and I should also bring up that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey recently said to destroy Iceland you really have to do something. About serious so I think we got a lot of clues about the strategy going forward we'll. The president did not say exactly when that would happy said this is a matter of urgency will be -- to make sure we -- doing it right OK Martha Raddatz thanks very much -- I'm here in the studio with our chief investigative correspondent. Brian Ross we just -- -- talk about the president's clearest statement yet. Of the goals taking the fight to ice this one of the big challenges though if you take this fight. Into Syria is intelligence can we get real intelligence on the ground. -- -- -- flying overhead now with the spy planes and satellites trying to do what they call pattern analysis looking for the whereabouts of leaders also looking for any sign of the hostages. And that's for the first action is likely to come. With drone attacks targeted as we did we bin Laden in Pakistan. As happened apparently today with the leader Nelson Bob. I would say in the -- but the audience at target on his back he does of course one of the complications is that at least two American students still being held hostage. Exactly and the concern in the administration is that one by one they're -- -- parade the hostages out. And -- accused him now still threaten the British hostage there are two more Americans several other westerners and the dilemma for the president is. When does that stop how do you stop if you allow that to continue to happen. I talked about a timeline for the in the September. The fear is that more hostages will be executed by that time so I know them looking for any actionable intelligence that's what they call it. To do any kind of effort to go in there and try to rescue the hostages once again. But no ransom be paid no trades for the hostages -- go to Jon Karl in Wales as Martha pointed out John. The president clearest statement of the goal yet with no backtracking it appeared at all. Yes absolutely it took three press conferences you could say for him to. Get this message down but he was actually unequivocal that there is no containing. Crisis that they have to be dismantled have to be destroyed. Opera still interest in George of the president's language is much more measured than others in his. In his cabinet in his administration you know yet Vice President Biden talking about. Following nicest to the gates of hell this president is -- -- measured -- always has been but two. Quotes from him really almost got to an Obama doctrine -- -- he said we must be systematic and methodical. And we have to act with urgency. But to be sure we are doing it right he made it clear that for all of the you know as as a -- emotional. As this is with -- -- All full of videos coming out as as great a threat as a -- is this is a president. It is gonna take this in a very mountain. Very systematic way analyze the issue and not and and not jumping. Yeah announced timely -- not the -- -- -- by these by the videos coming on Martha Raddatz on another matter the president of course also dealing with a situation in Ukraine. Right now city appeared a bit more hopeful about the cease fire announced this morning. He did he said he was hopeful but he also added he was skeptical he's he's seeing these kinds of things before but he did seem. A bit more hopeful I'd say the emphasis was on hopeful. But not skeptical talked a little about that rapid reaction force other I don't think he ever answer the question. About what -- US what the US would be doing with that rapid reaction force and whether it would involved US forces but clearly again to build up to build up the confidence of the allies in the region. And Jon Karl the president also did not quite answer that question about whether that is gonna delay immigration reform executive actions. Until after the election he said he would be considering them. Soon but did not promise action for the election. Today he seemed to be saying he's going to acts the question is -- and that's what White House officials are saying privately here. That it's not really a question of if he's gonna do it it's when. Serious consideration is being may -- talking a White House officials just over the last a day about this. To keeping this after the election one factor George. Is that they don't want to see the president at. Act on this before the election and the election turn out bad for Democrats -- all the trend lines are looking bad the Republicans having it. Real chance of retaking the senate and then have analysts blame it on. The president acting on immigration reform so I would say right now anything among the White House -- -- president's senior advisors. The move right now is to doing this after the election but make no mistake -- they're gonna do it. Although the president might be blamed for that election no matter what and teach young girl thanks very much Martha Raddatz Brian Ross think you're -- return now. And two regular programming.

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