President Obama, flanked by Defense Secretary Ash Carter (far left) and Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin Dempsey (right), addresses reporters at the Pentagon, July 6, 2015. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett
President Obama on Monday reiterated that efforts to degrade and ultimately destroy the ISIS terrorist organization will take time and require much resiliency. “We will ultimately prevail.” However, “This will not be quick. This is a long-term campaign,” he told reporters during a press briefing at the Pentagon with the Defense Department leadership at his side. ISIS is “opportunistic” and “nimble” and is “dug in” with innocent civilian populations in areas of Iraq and Syria, he said. It will take time to root out these elements, and local ground forces that can sustain progress must be the ones who do this, with the support of coalition airpower and training, he said. While ISIS has made recent gains in parts of Iraq and Syria, such as Ramadi, Iraq, it has also faced setbacks, he said. ISIS “can be pushed back,” especially when there is an effective ally on the ground like the Kurds at Kobani, Syria, and Iraqi forces at Tikrit, he said. “Its strategic weaknesses are real,” said Obama. The US-led coalition has conducted more than 5,000 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, eliminating thousands of ISIS fighters and destroying scores of ISIS fighting positions and vehicles as well as training camps and other infrastructure, said Obama. The United States is “intensifying efforts” against ISIS’s base in Syria, he said. (See also More Troops to Iraq.)
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