President Barack Obama said Monday the war against the Islamic State will not be quick and will require continued global commitment to fight it not only militarily but also ideologically.
Despite recent successes, and he listed out a few in a rare appearance at US military headquarters — the Pentagon, IS was far from defeated, and was more effective in some ways.
“This will not be quick,” Obama said. “This is a long-term campaign.” IS remained “opportunistic” and “nimble” and is now posing “a grave threat beyond the region (Iraq and Syria)”.
It’s expanding not only physically, but also ideologically, inspiring attacks of the kind seen in Ottawa, Sydney, Paris and Copenhagen. And lone-wolf incidents as in Garland, Texas.
To that end, he said, “I’ve called on the international community to unite against this scourge of violent extremism…We’ll continue to also partner with nations from Afghanistan to Nigeria to build up their security forces.”
But this fight was not going to be won militarily, he said. IS’s twisted ideology needs to be discredited and defeated by “better ideas -- a more attractive and more compelling vision”.
While the US was not at war with Islam — and he wanted that to be understood clearly — it would expect Muslims around the world “to step up in terms of pushing back as hard as they can”.
Obama has been facing criticism, mostly from conservatives, that he is not doing enough to fight IS, after completely underestimating it initially as a minor threat.
Republican senator John McCain said Tuesday Obama’s Pentagon comments “reveal the disturbing degree of self-delusion that characterizes the administration’s thinking.”
“None of the so-called progress that the President cited suggests that we are on a path to success.”
The president had listed out the destruction of thousands of military vehicles and position and the killing of IS fighters in Syria as a success. And the recapture of towns in Iraq.
The US and its allies have carried out over 5,000 air strikes against IS in Syria, and are helping local forces with military equipment and advisers it them in Iraq.
But critics maintained the administration is not doing much. For instance, they said citing official figures, the US is training only 60 Syrian fighters to take on the IS in their country.