WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2014 – President Barack Obama has directed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to present a range of options aimed at the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
During a White House news conference today, Obama called ISIL a “cancer” that “poses an immediate threat to the people of Iraq and to people throughout the region.”
The United States has struck the terror group in Iraq. Any effort taken against the group in its sanctuary in Syria must be part of a broader regional and international effort, the president said.
“Rooting out a cancer like ISIL will not be quick or easy, but I’m confident that we can, and we will, working closely with our allies and our partners,” Obama said.
The president said the options he’s asking for are aimed primarily at thwarting ISIL’s designs in Iraq.
“My priority at this point is to make sure that the gains that ISIL made in Iraq are rolled back and that Iraq has the opportunity to govern itself effectively and secure itself,” he said.
“We’re going to have to build a regional strategy” to degrade ISIL over the long term, Obama said.
“Part of the goal here,” the president said, “is to make sure that Sunnis, both in Syria and in Iraq, feel as if they’ve got an investment in a government that actually functions. A government that can protect them. A government that makes sure that their families are safe from the barbaric acts that we’ve seen in ISIL.”
All aspects of national and international power must be in play, the president said. Diplomatic, political and economic power will be just as important as military actions, he said.
The limited airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq have had an effect, Obama said.
“Because of our strikes, the terrorists of ISIL are losing arms and equipment,” he said. “In some areas, Iraqi government and Kurdish forces have begun to push them back. And we continue to be proud and grateful to our extraordinary personnel serving in this mission.”