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September 11, 2014

Obama promises expanded efforts against ISIL

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President Obama announced that the U.S. will lead an expanded effort to combat ISIL in the Middle East using airstrikes and an increased number of troops.

The U.S. will deploy 475 more troops to Iraq to serve as military advisers, making a total of 1,600 U.S. troops in Iraq. The U.S. will also use air power to target ISIL, a strategy that has been successful with over 150 airstrikes this summer, he said.

Obama compared this military effort to similar counterterrorism strategies in Somalia and Yemen, where a combination of air power and support for military partners has been successful, he said.

Obama stressed that these military actions will be different from the recent U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil,” he said.

ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is a Sunni militant organization that originated from al Qaeda, who have since denounced ISIL. The U.S. and United Nations have deemed the organization a terrorist group. ISIL has stated that its goal is to establish an Islamic caliphate across an area in the Middle East that includes Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

The group swept through northern Iraq this summer, capturing approximately one-third of Iraq’s territory and targeting religious minorities. Reports have stated that ISIL conducted mass killings against opposing armies and Iraqis who refused to convert to Islam.

Thousands of Europeans and a small number of Americans have joined ISIL as fighters, according to intelligence officials. ISIL also drew shock this summer when it released videos showing the killing of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who the group had held as prisoners.

The announcement came one day prior to the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which Obama cited as an example of the U.S. ability to overcome setbacks.

“America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth,” he said.


Warm up questions
  1. Name some countries in the Middle East.
  2. What do you know about this region?
  3. What is the definition of a terrorist group?
Critical thinking questions
  1. What strategies did President Obama propose to use to combat ISIL?
  2. In the president’s speech last night he said, “Our objective is clear:  We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.” How will the United States know when ISIL has been destroyed and therefore when to end the military force against ISIL?
  3. The president’s strategy to destroy ISIL consisted of four essential parts:
    1. We will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists
    2. We will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground
    3. We will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks
    4. We will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization.

    What are the risks and benefits of these four proposed actions?

  4. How are these actions different from the military campaigns that the United States fought in Iraq and Afghanistan?
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