Monday 24 October 2016

Obama: Military hitting IS group harder than ever

Published 14/12/2015 | 18:21

US president Barack Obama said the group's leaders cannot hide
US president Barack Obama said the group's leaders cannot hide

President Barack Obama has said the United States military and allied forces are hitting the Islamic State group harder than ever.

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Mr Obama says the group's leaders cannot hide, and the group is losing territory.

He also said the US strategy of hunting down leaders, training forces and stopping the group's financing and propaganda is progressing.

The president made the remarks after meeting with his national security team at the Pentagon on Monday.

The rare meeting outside the White House is part of a public relations drive to ease Americans' worries about domestic terrorism ahead of the holidays.

Mr Obama is making the case for his broad counter-terrorism strategy, including his ongoing campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Mr Obama said: "We are hitting Isil harder than ever."

He said air strikes had increased and the coalition had knocked out key figures in the group's leadership "one by one".

"The point is, Isil leaders cannot hide and our next message to them is simple: 'You are next'."

Mr Obama is also slated to attend a briefing at the National Counterterrorism Centre later in the week.

The high-profile visits to agencies charged with keeping the US safe follow a televised address on December 6 that aimed to reassure the public but that critics said failed to do the job.

"The American people are smart enough to know when something is working or not, and it's obvious that the president's current strategy isn't working," Republican House majority leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement.

"Far from being contained - much less defeated - Isis has now extended the reach of its terror farther than ever before."

Mr Obama is also hoping to draw a contrast with Donald Trump and his inflammatory remarks about Muslims, which the Obama administration has said endangers US national security.

"Terrorists like Isil are trying to divide us along lines of religion and background," Mr Obama said in his weekly address. "That's how they stoke fear. That's how they recruit."

This week, he said, "we'll move forward on all fronts".

After a series of setbacks, the US and its coalition partners have claimed progress recently in wresting back territory from IS and eliminating some of its key leaders in Syria and Iraq. The military has said hundreds of US air strikes in recent days dealt a major blow to IS ranks in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi, which IS seized in May.

But progress in Ramadi, as elsewhere, has been slow, leading to calls in the US and abroad for a tougher response. Mr Obama has authorised sending small numbers of US special forces to Iraq and Syria, but has insisted he will not budge from his determination not to send in major ground forces.

The president said the US would continue to urge coalition allies to contribute more to the fight. Defence secretary Ash Carter is heading to the Middle East to ask allies there to step up, Mr Obama said.

Press Association

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