The United States will fight ISIL until it is no longer a threat in the Middle East and beyond, President Barack Obama said after the terrorist group executed a second American journalist on camera.
“The bottom line is this, our objective is clear and that is to degrade and destroy (ISIL) so that it’s no longer a threat not just to Iraq but also the region and to the United States,” Obama told a news conference in Estonia on Wednesday.
But moments later the US president contradicted himself by saying that wiping out ISIL entirely is not an achievable goal. “As we’ve seen with al-Qaeda, there are always going to be remnants that can cause havoc.”
He acknowledged that confronting the militant group would take time and a broad coalition of allies. “This is not going to be a one-week or a one-month or a six-month proposition.”
Obama’s comments come as US intelligence officials confirm the authenticity of a video showing the beheading of journalist Steven Sotloff by ISIL militants just two weeks after a similar video surfaced depicting the execution of James Foley, another American freelancer who had been missing in Syria.
“Those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget and that our reach is long and that justice will be served,” he said.
Obama was widely criticized last week for saying “we don’t have a strategy yet” to confront the terrorist group.
Contradicting statements by senior administration officials also reflect the lack of a comprehensive strategy to take on ISIL.
Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in the short term ISIL can be contained, while Secretary of State John Kerry insisted the group must be “crushed.”
The United States and its regional allies have been supporting extremist groups in Syria to fight the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Last year ISIL exploited the chaos of the Syrian conflict to capture large swaths of territory there, before sweeping into neighboring Iraq where the militants have been rampaging through villages and towns beheading prisoners, carrying out massacres and expelling hundreds of thousands of residents.
The United States resumed air strikes in Iraq in August for the first time since the pullout of American troops in 2011. More than 1,000 American ground troops have also been deployed back to the war-torn country.
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