WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — President Barack Obama said during a press conference in Wales Friday following the NATO summit that the terror group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria cannot be contained.
Echoing a similar comment Secretary of State John Kerry made, the president stated that ISIS controls too much area in Syria and Iraq to simply be contained.
“You can’t contain an organization that is running roughshod through that much territory,” Obama said, citing the havoc they have created and the killings of innocent people, including the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. “The goal has to be to dismantle them.”
Obama explained that the U.S. has been acting deliberately over the past several months to deal with ISIS.
“We’ve taken this in stages,” the president said, noting the humanitarian aid and the U.S. military airstrikes in Iraq on ISIS targets.
Obama reiterated that the U.S. will not be placing boots on the ground inside Syria to take out ISIS.
“We will not be placing U.S. ground troops to try to control the areas that have been part of the conflict inside of Syria,” Obama said.
Obama added it will be critical for Arab states to work with the U.S. and its allies to combat this “savage organization,” specifically Sunni majority states. He said that these countries must reject the Islamic State’s extreme nihilism and join them in the fight against the group.
Earlier Friday, Kerry warned that they cannot leave ISIS intact for them to keep coming back.
“There is no contain policy for ISIL. They’re an ambitious, avowed genocidal, territorial-grabbing, Caliphate-desiring, quasi-state within a regular army,” Kerry said. “And leaving them in some capacity intact anywhere would leave a cancer in place that will ultimately come back to haunt us. So there is no issue in our minds about our determination to build this coalition, go after this.”
The secretary of state defended Obama against critics who lashed out at him following last week’s statement that “we don’t have a strategy yet” against ISIS.
“Contrary to what you sort of heard in the politics of our country, the president is totally committed; there is a strategy that is clear, becoming more clear by the day. And it really relies on a holistic approach to ISIL. That is to say that we need to do kinetic, we need to attack them in ways that prevent them from taking over territory, that bolster the Iraqi security forces, others in the region who are prepared to take them on, without committing troops of our own, obviously,” Kerry said, using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State.
Kerry said that NATO nations must go after ISIS’ funding and that they must be committed on helping militarily and contributing intelligence advisers to combat the terror group. White House aides tell CBS News that NATO will pledge military assistance as Obama meets with European leaders and Jordan’s King Abdullah.
“So we’re convinced that in the days ahead we have the ability to destroy ISIL. It may take a year, it may take two years, it may take three years. But we’re determined it has to happen,” Kerry said.
Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes also told CBS News that the next presidential administration will have to destroy the terror organization.
“It’s clearly going to take a very long time to ensure that you’ve eliminated that threat,” Rhodes told CBS News.
The Iraqi Defense Ministry claims that a U.S. airstrike near Mosul killed Abu Hajar al-Sufi, a top lieutenant to ISIS commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The White House has yet to confirm his death.
“We are very careful not to make declarative statements until we know with certainty that someone like that, who’s a very high value individual in the organization, has been taken out,” Rhodes told CBS News. “Any time that there’s a leader taken off the battlefield in a terrorist organization like that, it does have an impact on their ability to operate as effectively as they did before.”
The heightened urgency reflected fears that the Islamic State was growing stronger in its quest to create a caliphate territory in the Mideast and systematically kill any who resist. The group is considered even more merciless toward its enemies than the al Qaeda terror network, and intelligence officials across the world warn that it may soon seek to seed its violence beyond its declared borders.
So far, the Islamic State has beheaded two American journalists it held captive for what the militants called payback for more than 120 U.S. airstrikes on its assets in northern Iraq since Aug. 8. Foley and Sotloff were two of what the State Department has described as “a few” Americans still being held hostage by the group. The Islamic State also had threatened to kill a British man it is holding hostage.
In the Sotloff video, a masked militant warns Obama that as long as U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State group continue in Iraq, “our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.”
“I’m back, Obama, and I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State, because of your insistence on continuing your bombings … and on Mosul Dam, despite our serious warnings,” the executioner said. “You, Obama, have but to gain from your actions but another American citizen. So just as your missiles continue to strike out people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.”
Obama administration officials maintained that the U.S. will not launch a ground war against the Islamic State militants. But they stopped short of ruling out airstrikes against the group in its safe haven in Syria, as the U.S. has resisted for years. The U.S. has been conducting airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq.
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