U.S. and allies prepare new campaign against Islamic State

President Obama outlined a multi-step plan to defeat the Islamic State group in an interview on Sunday. According to reports, the expanded air offensive could last years, but the president insisted that it would not include combat troops and that regional partners would have to “step up.” Judy Woodruff reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now to the next phase for the United States and partners in going after the Islamic State group. Many in the region and this county are anxiously awaiting more details as the president prepares for a national address Wednesday on his strategy in dealing with the militant group that has brought death and destruction to large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We're going shrink the territory that they control, and, ultimately, we're going to defeat them.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The president outlined a multistep campaign in a lengthy interview seen Sunday on NBC. It elaborated on his statement last week in Estonia regarding the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    So, the bottom line is this: Our objective is clear, and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL, so that it is no longer a threat, not just to Iraq, but also to the region and to the United States.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    It was widely reported today that the president's expanded air offensive could last years. But in the NBC interview, he again made clear the effort won't include combat troops.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    We're not looking at sending in 100,000 American troops. We are going to be, as part of an international coalition, carrying out airstrikes in support of work on the ground by Iraqi troops, Kurdish troops. We are going to be helping to put together a plan for them, so that they can start retaking territory that ISIL had taken over.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Airstrikes have already been under way for four weeks, nearly 150 to date. They have helped Kurdish forces, plus Iraqi troops and Iranian-backed Shiite militia push back the Sunni extremists of Islamic State.

    Over the weekend, the air campaign reached into Anbar province, striking targets around Haditha dam. The predominantly Sunni region west of Baghdad is largely under Islamic State control. It remained unclear if an expanded air war would extend into Syria.

    General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has said any move to destroy the militants would also mean strikes in Syria, where they are strongest. Just 10 days ago, at a White House news conference, Mr. Obama said there was no strategy yet on that question. He didn't address that point directly in his NBC interview, but he did say it's essential for majority Sunni states in the region to step up.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    Not just Saudi Arabia, our partners like Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, they need to be involved. This is their neighborhood. The dangers that are posed are more directed at them right now then they are at us.

    And the good news is, I think, for perhaps for the first time, you have absolute clarity that the problem for Sunni states in the region, many of whom are our allies, is not simply Iran; it is not simply a Sunni-Shia issue.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    To that end, Secretary of Defense Hagel was in Turkey today, one of the 10 NATO nations committed to the so-called core coalition against the Islamic State group.

    It was also announced that Secretary of State Kerry will leave tomorrow for the region. And a two-day meeting of the Arab League in Cairo ended today with the group urging members to confront the Islamic State.

    The league's secretary-general is Nabil Elaraby.

  • NABIL ELARABY, Secretary-General, Arab League (through interpreter):

    What is happening in Iraq is a threat of a terrorist organization that is not just defying the state, but threatens its existence and the existence of other countries. This terrorist organization represents all forms of tyranny, oppression and terror. It's working to divide the social structure of the region.

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