President Barack Obama wants the Syria-based jihadi army to be defeated, according to a top White House official.
“This is a cancer that has to be eradicated, and that’s how we look at this,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s national security spokesman.
That’s a 180-degree reversal from 2011, when Obama withdrew the last U.S. ground forces out of Iraq and announced an end to the “Iraq war” as he had promised in the 2008 campaign.
“Today, I can say that our troops in Iraq will definitely be home for the holidays…. the tide of war is receding,” he said in October 2011. So far, progressives have not tried to block his new anti-jihad strategy.
The jihad group, dubbed the Islamic State (IS) is a hyper-aggressive spin-off of an al-Qaida subsidiary that was invited into Iraq before the U.S. campaign overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003. In recent years and months, it has occupied a large swath of territory in northern Iraq and northern Syria. It has forced hundreds of thousands of non-Muslims to flee for safety, and this week, it also released a video showing one of its members decapitating American journalist James Foley. (RELATED: IS Beheads American Journalist On Camera)
“Absolutely, when you see somebody killed in such a horrific way, that represents a terrorist attack against our country,” said Rhodes.
U.S. aircraft are already striking IS forces in northern Iraq. The campaign has been intended to push back IS forces from the Kurdish capital of Irbil, and to recapture an important dam in northern Iraq.
There’s little evidence that U.S. forces are striking at other IS targets in Iraq or Syria.
But Rhodes hinted the U.S. would attack IS targets in Syria.
“If you come after Americans, we’re going to come after you, wherever you are,” he said.
Rhodes provide few details of Obama’s strategy. The president won’t commit ground troops, and he wants to work with local and international allies, he said. (RELATED: Obama On Beheading: Islamic State ‘Speaks For No Religion’)
“In the long term, we will be working with our partners to defeat this organization,” he said, during a brief press conference held in Martha’s Vinyard, where the president is currently on vacation.
“The campaign won’t be quick,” he said.
The jihad army “has been there for 10 years, when you go back to al-Qaida in Iraq,” he said. “It will take time, a long time, to fully evict them,” he continued. ”The president won’t rush into action, Rhodes suggested.
“I think the American people understand that this president is very deliberate about the use of force… [and] the American people also understand that there are some threats that have to be dealt with,” he said.
Just as the U.S. has responded to threats from al-Qaida, he said, “we’ll take whatever actions are necessary to protect our people.”