President Obama took only a few minutes at the Pentagon on Monday to outline several recent successes but offered no new plans or strategy on defeating the Islamic State. He said the effort since spring also has resulted in the deaths of at least seven Islamic State leaders, including second-in-command Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali. “The point is, ISIL leaders cannot hide, and our next message to them is ‘You are next,’ ” President Obama said from the Pentagon briefing room, flanked by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and several U.S. generals.
“As we squeeze its heart, we’ll make it harder for ISIL to pump out its terror and propaganda.”
The president restated his multi-prong strategy of a massive air campaign, targeting Islamic State leaders and diplomatic efforts to end the civil war in Syria, where the group has flourished. Obama said the “mission to destroy” so far includes 9,000 airstrikes since the bombing started in September 2014 and a record number of bombs dropped in November.
President Obama said the effort has also helped recapture significant territory that the group has taken in Syria and Iraq, where the group also has a foothold. The address was part of the president’s week-long, high-profile effort to ease Americans’ fears about ISIS, which also has been associated with the deadly terror attacks in Paris and most recently in California. Beyond the airstrikes, President Obama’s strategy has thus far included military support for Iraqi troops and the deployment of about 50 U.S. Special Forces members in Syria.