President Obama said the U.S. is “hitting ISIL harder than ever” following a meeting with his National Security Council at the Pentagon on Monday. Obama met with advisers to discuss the administration’s strategy to combat the militant group ISIS — which he refers to by the alternative acronym of ISIL — as part of an ongoing effort to reassure Americans about national security in the wake of terrorist attacks at home and abroad.
“As we squeeze its heart we’ll make it harder for ISIL to pump its terror and propaganda to the rest of the world,” Obama said, adding that the strategy is moving forward with a “great sense of urgency.”
In the wake of the attacks in San Bernardino, Calif, and Paris, both of which were linked to ISIS, President Obama has been called on to consistently update the American people on how the strategy is going. On Monday, Obama said coalition forces have launched 9,000 airstrikes against the group and taken out key leaders including a top official, a high-ranking recruiter and a weapons trafficker.
“ISIL leaders cannot hide,” Obama said. “Our next message to them is simple—you are next.” The President said ISIS is continuing to lose territory and support in Iraq and Syria, quoting a refugee who said soon they will be alone in their fight.
During his most recent address, Obama laid out the current strategy and said he has “no greater responsibility than the security of the American people.” The strategy includes carrying out airstrikes against the terror group in Iraq and Syria, called on allies to help in the attacks, providing training and equipment to Iraqi and Syrian forces on the ground, and working toward a diplomatic solution to the war in Syria. Obama laid out that strategy again on Monday, adding that he’s sending Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to the Middle East to work with coalition partners to shore up more support. Secretary of State John Kerry is also heading to Russia where he will discuss a solution in Syria.
“Just as US is doing more in this fight, just as allies…are doing more, so must others,” Obama said from the Pentagon. President Obama also said that though the actions were being carried out, “we recognize that progress needs to keep coming faster.”
While Obama stands by his plan to defeat the group, in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, he has come under growing criticism by Republicans in Congress and those seeking to succeed him as president.
Obama has also come under fire for avoiding the phrase “radical Islamic terror” when discussing the threat of ISIS. Instead, he’s sought to differentiate Islam from the practices and beliefs of terrorists. “[ISIS] does not speak for Islam,” Obama said. “They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world — including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology.”
Monday’s stop at the Pentagon was Obama’s first of a series of meetings on the counter-terrorism strategy scheduled ahead of the holidays. On Thursday, the president will travel to the National Terrorism Center for a threat briefing before heading to Hawaii with his family on Friday.