The president’s meetings with top Pentagon officials and other national security advisers follow a wave of weekend airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition in eastern Syria.
Since last August, air strikes by the U.S. and allies have “eliminated thousands of fighters, including senior commanders”, he said. Obama said the only way for that civil war to end was if President Bashar Assad stepped down; a move, he said, that would unite the remaining factions against the Islamic State.
He said the USA will keep up efforts to discredit the group and counter its use of the Internet to recruit suppporters.
The battle against ISIS will be a “generational struggle”, said Obama. Obama said those forces and airstrikes can do only so much to address the “political and economic” realities that allowed the militants to grow in popularity and strength in the region. “It is going to be vital for us to make sure that we are preparing the kinds of local ground forces and security forces with our partners that cannot only succeed against ISIL, but then sustained in terms of security and in terms of governance”.
The YPG, a militia operating mostly in predominantly Kurdish areas of northern Syria towards the Turkish border, has emerged as the only significant partner in Syria for U.S.-led alliance fighting to tackle Islamic State both there and in Iraq.
Obama and his military aides discussed “what’s working, and what we can do better”, the president said. The heart of the strategy, however, involves training and equipping local troops to battle ISIL. An Isil-affiliated Facebook page said one civilian was among those killed and 10 were wounded, including women and children. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are scheduled to testify on Tuesday before the Armed Services Committee of the Senate on the Pentagon’s strategy against the Islamic State militants.
The president’s comments did little to satisfy critics in Congress, who say the administration has not done enough to combat the terrorist group.
“Certainly, we’re intensifying our efforts against ISIL’s base in Syria”, he mentioned. The President said success depends on “Muslim communities, including scholars and clerics, rejecting warped interpretations of Islam and protecting their sons and daughters from recruitment”.
The terror group is vulnerable and with help local forces can push back the extremists, Obama said.
Barack Obama has said the USA needs to do more to combat the threat of Islamic State and has insisted the military campaign will take time to complete.
The closer links between the Pentagon and the Kurdish fighters, however, seem likely to increase tension between the United States and Turkey, the only predominantly Muslim nation among the 28 members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “Here in the United States, we have seen all kinds of home-grown terrorism and tragically recent history reminds us how even a single individual motivated by a hateful ideology with access to unsafe weapons can inflict horrendous harm on Americans”.