By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Sept. 8, 2014 – Over the past few months President Barack Obama has been preparing the country to deal with the terrorist threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, and on Sept. 10 he will detail his plan before the nation, he told NBC’s Chuck Todd yesterday.
During an interview on Meet the Press, Obama said the United States has experience dealing with terrorist threats.
“This administration has systematically dismantled al-Qaida in the [federally administered tribal areas in northwestern Pakistan]. We just yesterday announced the fact that we had taken out the top leader of Al-Shabaab, the terrorist organization in Somalia,” the president said.
ISIL poses a broader threat because of its territorial ambitions in Iraq and Syria, he added, and said that after his participation in recent days at the NATO Summit in Wales, he knows the entire international community understands ISIL as a threat.
“The next phase is now to start going on some offense,” Obama said.
Going on the offensive
Getting an Iraqi government in place is among the first steps to be taken, and the president said he’s optimistic this can be done in the near term.
“I will then meet with congressional leaders on Tuesday. On Wednesday I'll make a speech and describe what our game plan's going to be going forward,” the president said. “But this is not going to be an announcement about U.S. ground troops. This is not the equivalent of the Iraq war.”
Obama said the effort will be similar to counterterrorism campaigns the United States has engaged in over the past several years, and that “because of American leadership, we have … a broad-based coalition internationally and regionally to be able to deal with the problem.”
On the last day of the NATO Summit, Obama announced during a press conference that NATO allies and partners were prepared to join in a broad international effort to combat the threat posed by ISIL, and that key NATO allies stood ready to confront the terrorist threat through military, intelligence, law enforcement and diplomatic efforts.
A broad-based coalition
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who also participated in the NATO Summit, later said the “core coalition” members would be the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Turkey.
Although the president will give the speech the day before the 13th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, Obama says he wants everyone to understand that his administration has received no immediate intelligence about threats to the homeland from ISIL.
“That's not what this is about,” he added. “What it's about is an organization that, if allowed to control significant amounts of territory, to amass more resources, more arms to attract more foreign fighters including from areas like Europe, who have Europeans [with] visas and can then travel to the United States unimpeded, that over time that can be a serious threat to the homeland.”
More immediately, he said, ISIL is a threat to friends and partners in the region and the terrorist group is causing a range of hardships.
A threat to friends
“We've seen the savagery,” Obama said, “not just in terms of how they dealt with the two Americans that had been taken hostage, but the killing of thousands of innocents in Iraq, thousands of innocents in Syria [and] the kidnapping of women -- the complete disruption of entire villages.”
The president added, “What I'm going to be asking the American people to understand is, No. 1, this is a serious threat. No. 2, we have the capacity to deal with it, here's how we're going to deal with it. I am going to be asking Congress to make sure that they understand and support what our plan is, and it's going to require some resources, I suspect, above what we are currently doing in the region.”
Obama said the speech will allow Congress to clearly and specifically understand what is being done and what is not being done.
“We're not looking at sending in 100,000 American troops,” he said, adding that the United States will be part of an international coalition that will carry out air strikes in support of work on the ground by Iraqi and Kurdish troops.
Obama said the plan will have economic, political and military elements.
“What I want people to understand, though,” Obama said, “is that over the course of months, we are going to be able to not just blunt the momentum of ISIL. We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We're going to shrink the territory that they control. And ultimately we're going to defeat them.”