Wednesday President Barack Obama asked Congress for formal authority to use the U.S. military force to fight ISIS.
Transcript as follows:
Good afternoon. Today as part of an international coalition in 60 nations, including Arab countries, our men and women in uniform continue to fight against ISIL in Iraq and in Syria. More than 2,000 coalition strikes have pounded these terrorists. We’re disrupting their command and control in supply lines and making it hard for them to move. We are destroying their fighting missions, their tanks, their vehicles, their barracks and training camps an the oil and gas facilities and infrastructure that fund their operations. We’re taking out their commanders, their fighters, and their leaders. In Iraq, the local forces have largely held the line and in someplace places have pushed ISIL back. In Syria, ISIL failed in the major push to take the town of Kobani, losing countless fighters in the process. Fighters who will never again threaten innocent civilians an we’ve seen reports of sinking morale among ISIL fighters as they realize the futility of their cause.
Now make no mistake, this is a difficult mission. And it will remain difficult for sometime. It is going to take time to dislodge these terrorists, especially from urban areas. But our coalition is on the offensive. ISIL is on the defensive and ISIL is going to lose.
These barbaric murders of so many people, including American hostages, are desperate and revolting attempts to strike fear in the hearts of people that it can never possibly win over by its ideas or ideology because it offers nothing but misery and death and destruction. With vile groups like this, there is only one option. And our allies and partners will dress grade and destroy this terror group.
When I announced our strategy against ISIL in September, I said that we are strongest as a nation when the president and congress work together. Today my administration submitted a draft resolution to congress to authorize the use of force against ISIL. I want to be clear about what it does and what it does not do. This resolution reflects our core objectives to destroy ISIL. It supports the comprehensive strategy that we’ve been pursuing with our allies and our partners. A systemic campaign against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, support and training for local forces on the ground, including the moderate Syrian opposition, and preventing ISIL attacks in the region and beyond, including by foreign terrorist fighters who try to threaten our countries, regional and international support for an inclusive Iraqi government that unites the Iraqi people and strengthens the Iraqi forces against ISIL. Humanitarian assistance for the civilians who are suffering so terribly under ISIL’s reign of horror.
I want to thank Vice President Biden and Secretary Kerry and Hagel and General Martin Dempsey for their leadership in advancing our strategy even as we meet this challenge in Iraq and Syria. We agree that one of the weapons against terrorists like ISIL, a critical part of the strategy is the values we have here at home. And the best antidotes to the ideology that tries to recruit people to violent extremism is as adverse to the society of all people, including people of all faiths.
The resolution we’ve submitted today does not call for the deployment of U.S. Ground combat forces to Iraq or Syria. It is not the authorization of another ground war like Afghanistan or Iraq. The 2600 American troops in Iraq today, largely serve on bases. And yes, they face the risks that come with service in any dangerous environment. But they do not have a combat mission. They are focused on training Iraqi forces, including Kurdish forces. As I’ve said before, I’m convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another ground war in the Middle East. That is not in our national security interest and it is not necessary for us to defeat ISIL. Local forces on the ground who know their countries best are best positioned to take the ground fight to ISIL and that is what they are doing.
At the same time this resolution strikes the necessary balance by giving us the flexibility we need for unforeseen circumstances. For example, if we had actionable intelligence about a gathering of ISIL leaders, and our partners didn’t have the capacity to get them. I would be prepared to order our special forces to take action because I will not allow these terrorists to have favor. So we need flexibility and we have to be careful and deliberate and there is no heavier decision that asking the men and women in uniform to risk their lives on our behalf. As commander and chief, I will only ask our troops to put their lives in the way when it is for national security.
And finally this repeals the 2002 authorization of force for the invasion of Iraq and limits this new organization to three years. I do not believe America’s interests are served by endless war or by remaining on a perpetual war footing. As a nation we today to ask the difficult and necessary questions about when, why and how we use military force. After all, it is our troops who bear the costs of our decisions and we owe them a clear strategy and the support they need to get the job done. So this resolution will give our armed forces an the coalition the continuity we need for the next three years. It is not a time table, it is not announcing that the mission is completed at any given period, what it is saying is that congress should revisit the issue at the beginning of the next president’s term. It is conceivable that the mission is completed earlier, it is conceivable that after deliberation, debate and evaluation, that there are additional tasks to be carried out in this area. And the people’s representatives with a new president should be able to have that discussion.
In closing, I want to say in crafting this resolution, we have consulted with and listened to both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. We made a sincere effort to address difficult issues that we’ve discussed together. And the days — in the days an week as head we’ll continue to work closely with members of congress on both sides of the aisle. I believe this resolution can grow stronger with the thoughtful and dignified debate to this advance. I’m optimistic it can win strong bipartisan support and we can show our troops and the world that Americans are united in this mission. And today our men and women in uniform continue the fight against ISIL and we salute them for their courageous service. We pray for their safety, we stand with their families who miss them and who are sacrificing here at home. But know this, our coalition is strong, our cause is just and our mission will succeed. And long after the terrorists we face today are destroyed and forgotten, America will continue to stand free and tall and strong. May God bless our troops and the United States of America. Thank you very much.
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