US President Barack Obama announced Wednesday night that America is going back to war, this time against the global terror group ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, known in Arabic as “Da’esh.”
Obama made the announcement in a 15 minute nationally televised address on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the September 11th attack on America by the international Al Qaeda terrorist organization.
“I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Obama said in his address. “It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil,” he promised.
Nevertheless, the president made it clear that the U.S. would wage a “relentless” military campaign to “degrade and destroy” the terrorist group that beheaded two American journalists, including one with dual Israeli citizenship.
The U.S. will rely heavily on air strikes to get the job done, Obama explained – including air strikes inside Syria, for the very first time. The four-part strategy includes air strikes, support to other forces battling the terrorist organization, counter terrorism efforts to prevent attacks and weaken the group, and continued humanitarian assistance to civilians.
A senior administration official carefully told reporters in a pre-speech briefing that attacks in Syria would be carried out at a ‘time and place of our choosing.” He added that no specific information would be provided to the media, in order not to “telegraph our punches by being specific about the time and nature of the target. We will do that as necessary, as we develop targets and as we continue what is a systematic air campaign that is not going to be restricted by a geographic border that, frankly, has very little meaning anymore, given [the group’s] operations in both Iraq and Syria.”
The official added that the formation of a new Iraqi government was what had allowed the U.S. to expand its support for a war against ISIS. Following the insertion of military advisers into Iraq earlier in the summer, the president said in June that “he would do more when the Iraqi cabinet was appointed. That has now happened and the next phase will be more offensive,” the official said.
The president cited support by what he said were dozens of “coalition” partners to “roll back this terrorist threat” in what will be an open-ended timetable. Several hours before going on the air, Obama authorized Secretary of State John Kerry to allocate $25 million in Foreign Assistance Act funds to train, educate and provide military assistance to the Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional governments in their fight against ISIS. Another 475 U.S. military troops will be sent to the region next week, bringing the total deployed to some 1,600 soldiers thus far.
To date, the U.S. has conducted 153 air strikes against ISIS terrorists in Iraq. The official who briefed journalists prior to the president’s speech said Obama is authorized to move from a humanitarian to offensive campaign against the terrorists without Congressional approval, based on the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress following the 9/11 terror attack by Al Qaeda. The legislation allows the president to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against any entity he believes “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The legislation expires when U.S. forces leave Afghanistan.