- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2014

Under fire for his lack of a strategy to deal with the Islamic State, President Obama on Friday struck a firm and determined note and vowed the U.S. will “hunt down” and “dismantle” the Islamist organization in the same way it went after al Qaeda in the days after Sept. 11, 2001.

Speaking at a press conference at the close of a NATO summit in Wales, Mr. Obama said the U.S. and Britain have successfully laid the foundation for a broad coalition to battle the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. The president also announced that Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to the Middle East in an effort to build a diverse international partnership dedicated to defeating the terrorist group.

“We are going to achieve our goal. We are going to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL — the same way we have gone after al Qaeda, the same way that we have gone after the al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia … We have been very systematic and methodical in going after these kinds of organizations that threaten any U.S. personnel and the homeland”,” Mr. Obama said. We will continue, and I will continue, to do what is necessary to protect the American people, and ISIL poses a real threat.”

He added that “you can’t contain” a group such as the Islamic State, which now controls a nation-sized swathe of territory across Iraq and Syria and has slaughtered Christians and other religious minorities throughout the region.

Brushing aside the notion of merely containing the Islamic State — a strategy the president seemed to embrace just a few days ago when he said the group could be broken down to a “manageable” problem — the president left no doubt Friday that the U.S. and its partners now want to erase the Islamic State from the face of the earth.

“We will continue to hunt them down,” Mr. Obama said. “What we can accomplish is to dismantle this network, this force that has claimed to control this much territory so that they can’t do us harm. That’s going to be our objective.”

SEE ALSO: Islamic State using Edward Snowden leaks to evade U.S. intelligence: NSA official

Thus far, the U.S. has launched more than 100 air strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq, the president said. Mr. Obama has not yet made a decision whether to authorize similar air strikes in Syria.

The president’s rhetoric has become stronger in the days since the Islamic State released video of the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff, the second U.S. reporter to be killed by the terrorist group in less than a month.

The organization also has taken hostage a man they identify as British and threatened to kill him if the U.S. continues air strikes.

Throughout this week and especially over the course of the two-day NATO summit, British Prime Minister David Cameron has emerged as Mr. Obama’s closest ally in the fight against the Islamic State.

The president said he is leaving the NATO gathering with the beginnings of a strong coalition capable of destroying the Islamist militants.

“I’m confident we are going to be able to build on that strong foundation and the clear commitment and have the coalition that will be required for the sustained effort we need to push ISIL back,” he said. “My expectation is we will see friends and allies of ours in the region prepared to take action as well as part of a coalition.”

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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