Obama pledges continued ISIS crackdown

The U.S. president said that the process will take time and require local forces on the ground

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U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday that recent territory losses by ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria show the extremist group will be defeated.

Speaking during a visit to the Pentagon, Obama said the United States would continue to crack down on the group’s illicit finance operations around the world and do more to train and equip moderate opposition groups in Syria.

“We’re going after the ISIS leadership and infrastructure in Syria, the heart of ISIS that pumps funds and propaganda to people around the world.”

He said recent losses by the ISIS proved the militant “can and will be defeated.”

But he said defeating ISIS militants had to be the job of local “forces on the ground.”

Obama said there were no current plans to send additional U.S. troops overseas and repeated that the fight against the militant group also known as ISIS would not be quick.

He said U.S. training of Iraqi forces had been ramped up after being too slow.

The U.S. military has lamented that Iraq had not provided enough recruits to meet U.S. training targets. It has also acknowledged that recruiting and training Syrians to fight ISIS was moving more slowly than expected, partly because of problems with vetting volunteers.

“We continue to accelerate the delivery of critical equipment, including anti-tank weapons, to Iraqi security forces,” Obama said. “And I have made it clear to my team that we will do more to train and equip the moderate opposition in Syria.”

The U.S. president added that the only way the civil war in Syria would end was in a united force against the Islamic militants “through a government without Assad.”

Obama did not give details on what more the United States would do in that regard.

Obama also noted the difficulty of preventing small-scale attacks by “lone wolves” within the U.S. homeland despite success at preventing large attacks since the Sept. 11, 2001 assaults on New York and Washington.

“We’re going to have to pick up our game to prevent these attacks,” he said.

He said needed to be done to prevent ISIS from gaining recruits within the United States. U.S. efforts to counter extremism must not single out Muslim Americans or any faith group, but the militant group was targeting its recruitment efforts at that community, Obama said.

“We also have to acknowledge that ISIL [ISIS] has been particularly effective at reaching out to and recruiting vulnerable people around the world, including here in the United States,” he said.

Republicans criticized the president for not having a successful strategy.

“His rhetoric doesn’t match reality. Over the last year, ISIS has expanded its reach exponentially - and the group’s influence continues to grow,” said Senator Tom Cotton, an Obama critic. “We’re not going to defeat a radical jihadist army with more bureaucrats in DC and no funding for our military on the front lines.”

Obama’s remarks came after U.S. July 4 Independence Day festivities passed without a major attack.

[With Reuters]