JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md., Oct. 15, 2014 – The fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists will be a “long-term campaign,” President Barack Obama said today.
Obama spoke here at a meeting hosted by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey that featured participation by 21 foreign chiefs of defense. The purpose of the meeting was to coordinate strategies in the efforts against ISIL.
There are no “quick fixes” in the battle against ISIL, Obama said. But with some 60 nations contributing to the coalition, he added, the world is united against the terrorist group.
United ‘to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL’
“We are united in our goal to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL so that it’s no longer a threat to Iraq, to the region, or the international community,” the president said.
The foreign nations represented at the meeting included Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
There have been “important successes” in the coalition’s efforts, Obama said, such as stopping ISIL’s advance on Irbil, saving civilians from massacres on Mount Sinjar, retaking the Mosul Dam, and destroying ISIL targets and fighters across Iraq and Syria.
“We’re also focused on the fighting that is taking place in Iraq’s Anbar Province, and we’re deeply concerned about the situation in and around the Syrian town of Kobani, which underscores the threat that ISIL poses in both Iraq and Syria,” the president said.
Coalition airstrikes will continue in both these areas, he said.
“As with any military effort, there will be days of progress and there are going to be periods of setback, but our coalition is united behind this long-term effort,” Obama said.
The situation is not a “classic” conflict in which the enemy is defeated in the battlefield and surrenders, he said.
Coalition battling ‘an ideological strain of extremism’
“What we’re also fighting is an ideological strain of extremism that has taken root in too many parts of the region,” Obama said.
Other U.S. defense participants included Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command; Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel III, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command and Navy Vice Adm. Frank C. Pandolfe, the director for the Joint Staff’s Strategic Plans and Policy directorate at the, Pentagon.
“One of the interesting things to hear from our military leadership is the recognition that this cannot simply be a military campaign,” said Obama, noting the effort must include all the “dimensions of our power” that bolster economic and political stability in the region.
ISIL poses a “significant threat” to the people of Iraq and Syria and to the surrounding countries and beyond, including the United States and Europe, Obama said. Australia, he said, has already seen terrorist networks trying to “infiltrate and impact population centers.”
An important aspect in the campaign against ISIL is continuing humanitarian aid to all populations that have been impacted, Obama said. He pointed out that Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey have been bearing an “extraordinary burden” due to the situation with displaced persons that began with the civil war in Syria.
While some of the countries represented in the room are “really stepping up” and doing what is necessary to contain the Ebola epidemic, the “world as a whole is not doing enough,” Obama said.
Nations will have to do more, he said, because unless the disease is contained at the source, it will continue to threaten “hundreds of thousands of lives,” and could lead to economic and political destabilization down the road.
U.S. military assists Ebola fight in West Africa
He pledged that the United States will continue its efforts to fight Ebola. He said “enormous strides” have been made in standing up a U.S. military operation in Western Africa to build supply lines and bring supplies, equipment and workers into Liberia and Sierra Leone.
In the United States, the administration is “surging” resources into Dallas, he said, after a nurse contracted the disease after treating a man who had the disease and has since died.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with her and all the courageous health care workers around the country who put themselves in challenging situations in treating this disease,” Obama said.
The lessons learned in Dallas will be applied to hospitals and health care centers throughout the country, he said. He noted, however, that an outbreak in the United States is unlikely because of the nation’s strong health care infrastructure.