Islamic State weakened, but still a threat, says Obama

Cheryl Sanders
August 10, 2016

A shift in tactics by the Islamic State group to include attacks on American soil will not stop the United States from fighting the terrorist group on every front across the globe, President Barack Obama said Thursday at the Pentagon.

He said the group is relying on small-scale terrorist attacks to generate "the kind of fear and concern that elevates their profile".

Italy, just across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya, has said it's prepared to allow the use its bases or airspace to launch strikes against ISIS in Libya.

As ISIS continues to expand its influence and ability to launch attacks around the world, President Obama is continuing an escalation of USA airstrikes targeting fighters in areas beyond Syria and Iraq, including Libya, which the Islamic State is now exploiting.

He also criticised Russian Federation for failing "to take the necessary steps" to try to reduce violence in Syria, saying it was time for Russian Federation "to show that it is serious" about bringing peace.

Still, Obama said, "their military defeat will not be enough".

"The possibility of a lone actor or a small cell that kills people is real", he said, adding that networks in the U.S. could be activated.

US -backed ground forces in Iraq and Syria have recaptured about 40% of the ground ISIL had seized.

The strikes came at the request of Libya's Western-backed unity government as its forces battled to reclaim the Mediterranean coastal city, which became an important Islamic State stronghold after militants seized it past year.

"ISIL has not had a major successful offensive operation in either Syria or Iraq in a full year", he said.

He says, "This wasn't some nefarious deal".

"As much as I would like to say that during my eight year presidency we could have eliminated terrorism completely, it is not surprising that it hasn't happened, and I don't expect that will happen under the watch of my successors", he said.

Trump raised questions this week when he repeatedly claimed to have witnessed video shot in Tehran of the recent $400 million cash transfer from the USA government.

"Even ISIL's leaders know they're going to keep losing", he said.

He said the USA has maintained vigilance, recognising those threats still remain, those aspirations in the minds of these folks still remain but it is much harder for them to carry out large scale attacks like that than it used to be.

Obama cautioned against overreacting to such attacks and rejected efforts to demonise Muslims as a way to make the U.S. safer, in a criticism of Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, who has called for a ban on Muslims entering the country.

The session comes as the US bombs targets in and around the Libyan city of Sirte, in a notable expansion of the USA -led coalition's military mission against IS.

He acknowledged that pressure against the group had prompted the jihadists to increase attacks outside Syria and Iraq, such as in the United States, France and Turkey.

If the renewed ceasefire does not stick, Obama said "Russia will have shown itself very clearly to be an irresponsible actor on the world stage that is supporting a murderous regime, and will have to answer to that on the global stage".

The president said Russian Federation might not be able to help end the violence, "either because they don't want to, or because they don't have sufficient influence over [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad".

"But the fact that we have what he referred to as "open gun laws" meant that anybody, as long as they didn't have a criminal record that could bar them from purchase, could go in and buy weapons".

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