By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
FORT MEADE. Md., Aug. 26, 2014 – President Barack Obama has again emphasized that U.S. combat troops will not be sent back into Iraq even as the United States continues to provide military assistance to the Iraqi government and the Kurds in their battle against Sunni terrorists who have taken hold of large sections of the country.
In an address today to the American Legion’s annual convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, Obama said the security of the American people, including diplomats and military advisors in Iraq, remains his top priority, which is why he authorized airstrikes against fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
But he added “we’ll not allow the United States to be dragged back into another ground war in Iraq. Because ultimately, it is up to the Iraqis to bridge their differences and secure themselves.” And he said, “our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader strategy to protect our people and support our partners to take the fight to ISIL.”
U.S. strategy is to strengthen partners and to provide more military assistance to government and Kurdish forces in Iraq and moderate opposition in Syria, Obama said. The United States also urges Iraq to form an inclusive government to build national unity and strong security forces. This will provide the “antidote against terrorists,” he said.
The United States is also building a coalition of nations against ISIL, but America can and will defend its citizens. “Our message to anyone who harms our people is simple: America does not forget. Our reach is long. We are patient. Justice will be done,” the president said. “We have proved time and time again we will do what is necessary … to go after those who harm Americans.”
He made the comments just days after American journalist James Foley, who had been held captive by ISIL terrorists for two years, was beheaded on video.
The American military is ready to take direct action when ordered, Obama said.
“Rooting out a cancer like ISIL won't be easy, and it won't be quick,” he said. “But tyrants and murderers before them should recognize that kind of hateful vision ultimately is no match for the strength and hopes of people who stand together for the security and dignity and freedom that is the birthright of every human being.”
Overall, the president’s message was that the United States will continue to lead in the 21st century.
“Nobody else can do what we do,” Obama said. No other nation, he added, does more to underwrite the security and prosperity on which the world depends. In times of crisis, no other nation can rally such broad coalitions to stand up for international norms and peace, he said.
Even nations that criticize the United States turn to America when the chips are down, he said. “That’s what American leadership looks like,” he said. “It’s why the United States is, and will remain, the one indispensable nation in the world.”