President Barack Obama announced a new pact on intelligence-sharing with France on Monday but ruled out any changes in US strategy to fight the Islamic State despite mounting expectations.
He ruled out the use of US ground forces, saying it would be a mistake. “The strategy that we have put forward is the strategy that is going to work,” Obama told reporters in the Turkish coastal city of Antalya on the sidelines of the G20 Summit.
There will be an intensification of that strategy but no changes. Obama said sending ground forces against the IS, which he called the “face of evil”, will be a “mistake”.
Critics argue that the President, as leader of the world’s strongest military, is not doing enough, has repeatedly underestimated the threat from IS and allowed the situation to drift.
That argument has taken on a new urgency after the killing of more than 130 people in a series of attacks in Paris on Friday, and there has been a growing demand at home and abroad for the US to do significantly more.
Obama’s remarks elicited quick response from his critics. “President Obama staying the course on our ISIS ‘strategy’ is the definition of insanity,” Republican Bobby Jindal said in a tweet.
The US leads an international coalition of countries, which includes France, that has been conducting air strikes against IS assets, positions and personnel in Syria and Iraq.
Obama has said in recent interviews that the terrorist group has been contained and rolled back. Kurdish forces backed by US air strikes took back the Iraqi city of Sinjar.
The Pentagon last week announced the killing of Mohammed Emwazi, the man known as Jihadi John, and IS leader in Libya Abu Nabil, also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi.
The Obama administration has cited these successes in support of its current strategy. But it also recently announced the deployment of 50 special forces personnel to Syria in a nod to its critics.
But that was clearly not enough for some. “I think if you’re going to war, sending 50 people to war at a time is sort of a recipe for being surrounded and somehow having a disaster on their hands,” Republican Rand Paul has said.