Obama dismisses IS group as existential threat

2016-01-13 09:27
US President Barack Obama greets supporters before the State of the Union at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 12, 2016. (Nicholas Kamm, AFP)

US President Barack Obama greets supporters before the State of the Union at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 12, 2016. (Nicholas Kamm, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington – The Islamic State group does not pose an existential threat to the United States, President Barack Obama declared on Tuesday, warning that such talk only emboldens America's enemies.

In his final State of the Union address, Obama attempted to reset the tone of the national security debate, which has grown more extreme and fearful as the battle to succeed him heats up.

He called on Congress to help him finally close the war or terror detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, which he branded a gift to extremist propagandists seeking to stir anti-American sentiment.

And he declared the US military to be the best funded and best trained fighting force in the history of the world, more than capable of seeing off the jihadist threat.

"But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands," Obama warned a Congress dominated by his Republican opponents.

"Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages pose an enormous danger to civilians and must be stopped. But they do not threaten our national existence."

US forces are leading an international coalition bombing the IS group from the air over their heartland in Iraq and Syria, and training Iraqi ground forces.

Obama has vowed to dispatch special forces to guide Syrian Arab and Kurdish militias closing in on the capital of the Islamic State's self-declared caliphate in Raqa.

And US intelligence is helping its allies locate and neutralise extremists plotting attacks in Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and European cities.

But Obama has vowed not to follow his predecessor George W Bush in committing thousands of ground troops to open-ended conflict in the Middle East – and Islamic State attacks have continued.

‘Ask Osama bin Laden’

Last month, a gun attack by a radicalised couple in San Bernadino, California that left 14 dead particularly shocked the American public.

The crowded Republican field jostling for the chance to run for the White House has seized on this and the uncertain progress in the Middle East to brand Obama weak.

"Today, I met with law enforcement officials from San Bernardino, and I can tell you what they need: actions, not words, to secure our country," said Michael McCaul, chairperson of the House Homeland Security Committee.

"Yet the White House is more focused on releasing battle-hardened extremists from Guantanamo Bay than keeping terrorists from opening up new safe havens across the world," he continued.

"Sadly, it appears the president still wants to falsely declare the war against Islamist terror over, while Americans want him to win it."

Obama gave such arguments short shrift.

Of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – where 105 terror suspects plucked from the battlefields of the world are still held – he declared: "It's expensive, it's unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies."

And he threw the challenge of mounting a serious campaign against the Islamic State group back at Congress, demanding they pass a law authorising the ongoing war.

"If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, you should finally authorise the use of military force against ISIL," he said.

"Take a vote. But the American people should know that with or without Congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them."

And, in order to defend his own bona fides as a determined anti-jihadist warrior, he referred his critics back to the greatest victory of his first term against Al-Qaeda.

"If you doubt America's commitment – or mine – to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden."

Read more on:    barack obama  |  us

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.