By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, December 14, 2015 — The coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is hitting ISIL targets "harder than ever" and will defeat the terror group, President Barack Obama said today.
The coalition is carrying out relentless strikes against ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria, while partners on the ground are rooting out terrorists from towns and neighborhoods, Obama told reporters at the Pentagon during a press briefing that followed a meeting of the National Security Council.
"In recent weeks, we've unleashed a new wave of strikes on their lifeline -- on their oil infrastructure -- destroying hundreds of their tanker trucks, wells and refineries, and we're going to keep on hammering those," he said.
Progress in Anti-ISIL Campaign
Obama said ISIL leaders are being killed off one-by-one.
"ISIL leaders cannot hide and our next message to them is simple: 'You are next,'" the president said.
"We are hitting ISIL harder than ever. Coalition aircraft -- our fighters, bombers and drones -- have been increasing the pace of their strikes, nearly 9,000 as of today," the president said.
The strikes destroy ISIL targets every day, including fighting positions, bunkers, staging areas, heavy weapons, bomb-making factories and training camps, he said.
The coalition is targeting ISIL “with precision," since ISIL is entrenched in urban areas and using civilians as human shields, he said.
"More people are seeing ISIL for the thugs and the thieves and the killers that they are," he said. "ISIL's reign of brutality and extortion continues to repel local populations and help fuel the refugee crisis."
Meanwhile, Obama said, partners on the ground in Iraq and Syria are reclaiming territory. ISIL has lost 40 percent of the areas it once controlled in Iraq and thousands of square miles in Syria, he noted.
Obama was joined during his statement by Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, and top military officers -- Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the commander of U.S. Central Command; and Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.
Carter will depart today for the Middle East to work with coalition partners on securing more military contributions in the fight, Obama said. And Secretary of State John Kerry will be in Russia Tuesday for diplomatic efforts on ending the Syrian civil war, he added.
Thanking the Troops
Obama thanked the men and women of the military for their service, and noted that many service members will be far from their families over the holidays.
"As always, our extraordinary men and women in uniform continue to put their lives on the line, in this campaign and around the world to keep the rest of us safe," he said.
The nation is proud and grateful, he said, for everything the service members do.
"Because of you, the America that we know and love and cherish is leading the world in this fight," he said. "Because of you, I am confident that we are going to prevail."