President Barack Obama authorized U.S. airstrikes inside Syria for the first time Wednesday night, along with expanded strikes in Iraq as part of "a steady, relentless effort" to root out Islamic State extremists and their spreading reign of terror.
"We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are," Obama declared in a prime-time address to the nation from the White House. "This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven."
Obama announced that he was dispatching nearly 500 more U.S. troops to Iraq to assist that country's besieged security forces, bringing the total number of American forces sent there this summer to more than 1,500. He also urged Congress anew to authorize a program to train and arm Syrian rebels who are fighting both the Islamic State militants and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Obama's plans amounted to a striking shift for a president who rose to political prominence in part because of his early opposition to the Iraq war. While in office, he has steadfastly sought to wind down American military campaigns in the Middle East and avoid new wars - particularly in Syria, a country where the chaos of an intractable civil war has given the Islamic State space to thrive and move freely across the border with Iraq.
"I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are," Obama said. "This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven."
Obama reiterated that unlike U.S. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, this operation will not involve "American combat troops fighting on foreign soil."
"This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground," Obama said. "This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years."
On the eve of Sept. 11, it's also important to note that Obama said the U.S. had not detected a specific plot against the United States homeland from the Islamic State. But the group, Obama said, represents a threat against the stability of the Middle East and "if left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region – including to the United States."
Watch the president's remarks
Earlier post: President Barack Obama is scheduled to address the nation tonight about his strategy against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. We’ll livestream the president’s address here on KERANews.org.
His remarks should begin at 8 p.m. Central.
We have two options for you: PBS video and NPR audio.
More on the issue
Here's a report from The Associated Press:
As President Barack Obama prepares to outline his strategy against the Islamic State group tonight in a speech to the American people, administration officials are still working to win the support of reluctant lawmakers for part of Obama's plan.
Republicans in the House aren't yet supporting Obama's request for approval to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels, and the request wasn't included in a spending bill that the House was originally supposed to vote on tomorrow.
That vote has now been delayed until next week.
Also left out of the measure was a request to spend up to $2 billion stabilizing the situation in Ukraine, Iraq and other hotspots.
The request for help for the Syrian rebels is expected to be discussed in a closed-door meeting of House Republicans tomorrow. A senior GOP aide says Republican leaders are keeping an open mind on it.
One option might be for the House and Senate to consider the plan separately from the government-wide funding bill.
More from NPR
President Obama previewed his plan for dealing with the Islamic State by comparing it to counterterrorism options in recent years and said it would not be an invasion akin to the ground war in Iraq.
As he prepares to lay out the details in a speech to the nation Wednesday night, several key factors are likely to determine the success or failure of any military mission.
From PBS and Frontline: Inside the Rise of ISIS
The U.S. military has conducted nearly daily pinpoint airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq since early August, and airdropped supplies to stranded people when the militants have taken control of their towns.
But the response involves more than the military, President Obama noted at the end of the NATO summit in Wales earlier this month. It involves encouraging Iraqi leaders to form and implement an inclusive government, gathering intelligence to conduct airstrikes, forming a political coalition and diplomatic effort to go with it, and developing a communications strategy to discourage people from supporting the Islamic State militants, he said.
President Obama also said he will not send U.S. troops to Syria but instead will support local moderate rebels who are fighting the extremist group:
“With respect to the situation on the ground in Syria, we will not be placing U.S. ground troops to try to control the areas that are part of the conflict inside of Syria. I don’t think that’s necessary for us to accomplish our goal. We are going to have to find effective partners on the ground to push back against ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is another name for the militants). And the moderate coalition there is one that we can work with. We have experience working with many of them. They have been, to some degree, outgunned and outmanned, and that’s why it’s important for us to work with our friends and allies to support them more effectively,” the president said on Sept. 5.