President Barack Obama on Monday said the US-led coalition is making progress against Islamic State militants in both Iraq and Syria, as he delivered an update on the campaign aimed at reassuring Americans worried about the spread of extremism-fueled terrorism, reported AP.
“We are hitting ISIL harder than ever,” Obama said, using the shorthand for the Islamic State group. Obama said airstrikes had increased and the coalition had successfully knocked out key figures in the group’s leadership “one by one.”
“The point is, ISIL leaders cannot hide and our next message to them is simple: ‘You are next.”‘ Obama said.
According to theguardian, flanked by Vice-President Joe Biden, the defense secretary, Ash Carter, and three military generals, Obama condemned Isis leaders as thugs, thieves, and killers and confirmed the death of Mohammed Emwazi, a Briton known as “Jihadi John”, in an airstrike last month.
“As we squeeze its heart, we’ll make it harder for ISIL to pump its terror and propaganda to the rest of the world,” the president said, in an eight-minute statement after meeting his national security council.
The tough talk came after Obama met with his top national security advisers at the Pentagon, part of a weeklong push to explain his strategy for stopping the Islamic State group abroad and its sympathizers at home.
Obama is also slated to attend a briefing at the National Counterterrorism Center later in the week.
After a series of setbacks, the US, and its coalition partners have claimed progress recently in wresting back territory from IS and eliminating some of its key leaders in Syria and Iraq.
Flanked by top military brass, Obama offered some of the first public details about the status of those special forces, ordered before the recent attacks in California and Paris.
He said special forces in Syria had started their work helping local groups cut off IS supply lines and put pressure on Raqqa, the unofficial capital of Islamic State group’s “caliphate.”
In an effort to encourage coalition allies to contribute more to the fight, Obama said he was dispatching Defense Secretary Ash Carter to the Middle East on Monday.
The high-profile visits to agencies charged with keeping the US safe follow an Oval Office address Dec. 6 that aimed to reassure the public but that critics said failed to do the job.