Remarks of President Barack Obama
The White House
September 13, 2014
The White House
September 13, 2014
As Commander in Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. And I’ve made it clear that those who threaten the United States will find no safe haven. Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, we took out Osama bin Laden, much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and leaders of al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia. We’ve prevented terrorist attacks, saved American lives and made our homeland more secure.
Today, the terrorist threat is more diffuse, from al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists—like ISIL in Syria and Iraq. As I said this week, our intelligence community has not yet detected specific ISIL plots against our homeland. But its leaders have repeatedly threatened the United States. And, if left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States. So we’re staying vigilant. And we’re moving ahead with our strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist organization.
To meet a threat like this, we have to be smart. We have to use our power wisely. And we have to avoid the mistakes of the past. American military power is unmatched, but this can’t be America’s fight alone. And the best way to defeat a group like ISIL isn’t by sending large numbers of American combat forces to wage a ground war in the heart of the Middle East. That wouldn’t serve our interests. In fact, it would only risk fueling extremism even more.
What’s needed now is a targeted, relentless counterterrorism campaign against ISIL that combines American air power, contributions from allies and partners, and more support to forces that are fighting these terrorists on the ground. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.
We’re moving ahead with our campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists, and we’re prepared to take action against ISIL in Syria as well. The additional American forces I’ve ordered to Iraq will help Iraqi and Kurdish forces with the training, intelligence and equipment they need to take the fight to these terrorists on the ground. We’re working with Congress to expand our efforts to train and equip the Syrian opposition. We’ll continue to strengthen our defenses here at home. And we’ll keep providing the humanitarian relief to help Iraqi civilians who have been driven from their homes and who remain in extreme danger.
Because we’re leading the right way, more nations are joining our coalition. This week, Arab nations agreed to strengthen their support for the new Iraqi government and to do their part in the fight against ISIL, including aspects of the military campaign. Saudi Arabia will join the effort to help train and equip moderate Syrian opposition forces. And retired Marine general John Allen—who during the Iraq war worked with Sunnis in Iraq as they fought to reclaim their communities from terrorists—will serve as our special envoy to help build and coordinate our growing coalition.
Today, every American can be proud of our men and women in uniform who are serving in this effort. When our airstrikes helped break the siege of the Iraqi town of Amerli [Ah-MER-lee], one Kurdish fighter on the ground said, “It would have been absolutely impossible without the American planes.” One resident of that city said—“thank you, America.”
Today we’re showing the world the best of American leadership. We will protect our people. We will stand with partners who defend their countries and rally other nations to meet a common threat. And here at home—thirteen years after our country was attacked—we continue to stand tall and proud. Because we’re Americans. We don’t give in to fear. We carry on. And we will never waver in the defense of the country we love.