Obama: U.S. will ‘take out’ ISIS leaders

The U.S. president said ISIS will ultimately be defeated and its fighters ‘hunted down’ like al-Qaeda

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U.S. President Barack Obama said on Friday the United States would hunt down militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, adding that it would "take out" their leaders with the goal of dismantling the organization as it had done with al-Qaeda members.

"I leave here confident that NATO allies and partners are prepared to join in a broad, international coalition," he said at a press conference during the NATO summit in Wales.

Obama said the goal is to dismantle ISIS, adding that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry would travel to the Middle East for talks to include regional powers.

"It's not going to happen overnight, but we are steadily moving in the right direction. And we're going to achieve our goal. We're going to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL," he added.

“We are going to have to find effective partners on the ground to push back against ISIL,” Obama added.

The United States said earlier on Friday it was forming a “core coalition” to battle ISIS militants in Iraq, calling for broad support from allies and partners but ruling out committing ground forces.

“We need to attack them in ways that prevent them from taking over territory, to bolster the Iraqi security forces and others in the region who are prepared to take them on, without committing troops of our own,” Kerry was quoted by Agence France-Presse as telling a meeting of 10 nations.

He added: “Obviously I think that’s a red line for everybody here: no boots on the ground.”

The secretary of state was meeting on the sidelines of a NATO summits in Wales with other defense and foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark to discuss a strategy against the militant group that has taken over swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territory.

Kerry said he knew many won’t want to do military strikes, but can provide intelligence, equipment or weapons.
He also said the 10 nations need willpower to stick with the fighter especially that they have the technology and know-how.

French President Francois Hollande said Friday his country is ready to join an anti-ISIS coalition if Iraqi authorities request it and the United Nations approves.

Speaking at the end of a two-day NATO summit in Wales, Hollande said France was discussing with allies what action might be taken, as quoted by the Associated Press.

"France is ready to act, but once the political accord is there and in respect to international law," Hollande said.

He noted that France has already provided weapons to Kurdish authorities and humanitarian aid to Iraq, following the go-ahead from Baghdad.

He did not specify whether military action was contemplated, but that any action would aim to stop Islamic State from doing harm.

Before Kerry’s statement, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said said NATO leaders condemn the “barbaric and despicable acts” carried out by ISIS who have beheaded two U.S. journalists, Agence France-Presse reported him as saying on Friday.

“We are united in condemnation of these barbaric and despicable acts... Their threats will only harden our resolve to stand up for our values,” Cameron said on the second day of a NATO summit.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, meanwhile, said that the UK has made no commitment to take part in any airstrikes in Iraq but would consider such possibility.

Hammond’s announcement comes after Cameron said on Thursday that strikes against ISIS inside Syria could be launched without an invitation from the Syrian government, raising one of the first justifications for foreign military action in Syria without the government’s consent.

Cameron on Thursday also further hardened his position against countries paying ISIS ransom money to save their citizens.

He said paying ransoms to extremist groups such as ISIS is “self-defeating,” The Guardian newspaper reported the prime minister as telling world leaders at the NATO summit in Wales on Thursday.

“What matters is not your signature on a declaration, but not letting money be paid to terrorist kidnappers because that money goes into arms, it goes into weapons, it goes into terror plots it goes into more kidnaps,” Cameron said, in reference to a statement signed by the G8 last year opposing ransom payments, which he says has been breached.

He added: “It is utterly self-defeating. It is worse than self-defeating; it is actually a risk to us at home.”

While Cameron did not publicly disclose the names of the countries which paid ransoms to save their citizens, The Guardian said the prime minister is “known to be angry” that as many as three EU countries, reportedly including France, Spain and Italy, have violated the spirit of the G8 statement.

Cameron further expressed anger regarding these countries paying ransoms to terrorist groups when he said: “I am in no doubt that those countries that have allowed ransoms to be paid, that has ended up with terrorist groups – including this terrorist group – having tens of millions of dollars that they can spend on kidnapping other hostages, on preparing terrorist plots, including against us here in the UK, and in buying arms and weapons to wreak havoc.”

While the premier’s warning comes after ISIS beheaded two U.S. journalists, the extremist group continues to hold a British aid worker named David Haines hostage.

According to The Independent, Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland have denied paying ransoms, but documents gleaned by a journalist in Mali purports that they did.

The Independent estimated that ISIS generates $1.5 billion from illicit activities, including kidnapping.

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