- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 26, 2016

Criticized for having fun abroad in the wake of the Brussels terrorist attacks, President Obama tried to assure Americans Saturday that defeating the Islamic State terror group is his “top military, intelligence, and national security priority.”

“We will succeed. The terrorists will fail,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly address.

Republican presidential candidates and others criticized the president for attending a baseball game in Havana with Cuban President Raul Castro and dancing the tango at a state dinner in Argentina in the aftermath of the bombings in Belgium that killed at least 34, including two Americans. Some critics said Mr. Obama should have cut short his trip and returned to the U.S.

The president said giving in to fear would only serve the militants’ goals.

“They want us to abandon our values and our way of life. We will not,” he said.

The White House also announce that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will visit the White House on April 4 to discuss with the president efforts of the U.S. and its allies to “defeat and degrade” the Islamic State and to alleviate the refugee crisis in Europe caused by the Syrian civil war.

In his weekly address, Mr. Obama said the U.S. has been taking out Islamic State leadership, including the killing this week of the extremist group’s finance minister, Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli. He was reportedly killed in a special forces operation in Syria.

“We removed one of their top leaders from the battlefield — permanently,” Mr. Obama said. “A relentless air campaign — and support for forces in Iraq and Syria who are fighting ISIL on the ground — has allowed us to take approximately 40 percent of the populated territory that ISIL once held in Iraq. We’re supporting Iraqi Security Forces who are beginning to put pressure on the ISIL stronghold of Mosul. And we will not stop until ISIL’s safe-havens are destroyed.”

The president also said the U.S. is working to disrupt plots against the U.S. and its allies. And in indirect criticism of some Republican presidential candidates, he said, the U.S. must lead the fight by “the power of example.”

“Our openness to refugees fleeing ISIL’s violence,” he said, using an acronym for the militant group. “Our determination to win the battle against ISIL’s hateful and violent propaganda — a distorted view of Islam that aims to radicalize young Muslims to their cause. In that effort, our most important partners are American Muslims. That’s why we have to reject any attempt to stigmatize Muslim-Americans, and their enormous contributions to our country and our way of life.”

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