US to raise military and diplomatic pressure on ISIS

President Obama said the US will use a four-pronged approach against the Islamic State group.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Lloyd Austin, speaks at the Pentagon, Monday about the fight against the Islamic State group following a National Security Council meeting.

After a series of Islamic State-linked attacks struck locations around the world over the last several months, President Obama said on Monday the United States has already begun an uptick in counter-strikes against the group.

The president’s comments were made from the Pentagon following a morning meeting with national security advisors where he laid out a four-pronged strategy to increase US and international military pressure against Islamic State (IS), a plan that “is moving forward with a great sense of urgency.”

The approach includes disrupting IS’s financing and propaganda networks, training Iraq and Syrian ground forces, doubling down on diplomatic efforts between the Assad regime and rebel fighters to end the Syrian civil war, and “hunting down terrorists,” Mr. Obama said.

"We are hitting ISIL harder than ever," the president said, using the government’s acronym for Islamic State. "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 spoke of military undertakings launched during the last several months, including assassinating some of Islamic State's top leaders and increasing the number of missile strikes in IS-held territory and Libya.

The announcement by Mr. Obama comes as more Western countries join an international coalition targeting the Islamic militants, amid an increasingly complex political scenario with Russian military strikes targeting Syrian rebels supported by the West.

The US-led coalition has hit 9,000 ISIS targets since its military campaign began, with the most number of airstrikes taking place in November, the president said.

Obama indicated the surge in strikes from drones, coalition aircraft, and warplanes has help hold back Islamic State offensives. 

"ISIL leaders cannot hide, and our message to them is simple: you are next," the president said. "Since this summer, ISIL has not had a single successful major offensive operation on the ground in either Syria or Iraq."

Obama said coalition strikes have been complicated by the fact IS has been embedded in Iraq and Syria for years, using civilians as human shields.

"This continues to be a difficult fight," Mr. Obama said. "We recognize that progress needs to keep coming faster."

The president has come under fire from Republicans since the Nov. 13 Paris attacks killed 130 people and the San Bernardino shootings in early December killed 14 more. Both attacked appear to have some links to IS.

France, Germany, Belgium Kuwait, Tunisia, Canada, Italy, and the United Kingdom have all have increased efforts in recent months to counteract IS’s gains, through airstrikes, training and intelligence.

Coalition forces have launched 5,826 strikes in Iraq and 3,037 in Syria, according to the White House. More recent military action has destroyed 75 targets. President Obama said IS has already lost about 40 percent of territory it once held. 

The president will also be sending US Defense Secretary Ash Carter to the Middle East this week, beginning with a stop in Turkey, while Secretary of State John Kerry plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the threat of IS, according to CBS News

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