U.S. President Barack Obama today pledged all possible tools—military, intelligence, and economic—to defeat the Islamic State group.
But he also acknowledged the extremist group has taken root in Syria and Iraq, is resilient, and continues to expand.
Obama spoke as chairman of a U.N. gathering of world leaders working to expand the battle against terrorism—a day after he and the leaders of Russia, China, and Iran addressed the General Assembly on its 70th anniversary.
The fight against terrorism, particularly in Syria, has seized the attention of top officials but there has been no overall agreement on how to end the conflict there.
“I have repeatedly said that our approach will take time. This is not an easy task,” Obama cautioned while adding he was “ultimately optimistic” the brutal organization would be defeated.
“This is a long-term campaign—not only against this particular network but against its ideology,” he said.
The Islamic State is attracting fighters from around the world—prompting fears they will return to their home countries to launch attacks.
And the fight has been complicated by a Russian military build-up in Syria in support of President Bashar Assad.
Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested yesterday that Russia could launch airstrikes against the militants in Syria, if sanctioned by the United Nations or requested by Damascus.
Obama and Putin are at odds over Russian involvement because Washington has said Assad must be removed from power.
Both laid out competing visions for Syria during their speeches to the opening meeting of the annual U.N. General Assembly yesterday.
Obama reiterated today that defeating IS requires “a new [Syrian] leader and an inclusive government that united the Syrian people in the fight against terrorist groups.”
Reflecting the divide, an official with the Russian delegation said Moscow would take part in the Obama-led event only by a lower-level official, U.N. deputy ambassador Evgeny Zagaynov.
Russia tomorrow will chair its own meeting on countering extremism as this month’s U.N. Security Council president.
One by one, speakers at today’s meeting spoke of the need to confront the extremism which Jordan’s King Abdullah II described as the “greatest collective threat of our time.”