US vows to 'take out' Islamic State wherever it exists
Barack Obama announces US military expansion in Middle East in speech he had 'hoped to avoid'
Barack Obama has expanded America's month-long bombing campaign in the Middle East, considerably deepening US military involvement in the fight against Islamic State.
The US president said last night that he would not hesitate to take action against the militants in Syria as well as in Iraq.
He outlined his plans in a televised speech on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. "America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat," Obama announced from the White House. "I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL [Islamic State] in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven."
The president said the counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a "steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground".
The US will step up its support for allied ground forces, but not Syrian regime forces, to fight against Islamic State and continue offering humanitarian aid to civilians affected by the militants' advance. Obama announced that 475 US military personnel would also be sent to Iraq, although not in a combat role.
Jon Sopel, BBC North America editor, described it as the speech Obama "had been desperately hoping to avoid" – a man who does not want to be a war leader dealing with the "unpalatable" situation he finds himself in.
It comes weeks after Islamic State, which has taken over large swathes of Syria and Iraq since June, beheaded two US journalists and released video footage of the murders, which was circulated widely on the internet. The US has already launched over 150 airstrikes against the group in Iraq and provided arms to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting the militants.
The Wall Street Journal notes that today's announcement marks an acknowledgment by Obama that the Islamic State threat requires "the type of long-term, open-ended conflict he has resisted since taking office – and which he campaigned for the White House saying he would avoid".