Arabo supports action, but criticizes effort as coming too late
East County News Service
Photo: Department of Defense, by Glenn Fawcett
July 13, 2015 (Washington D.C.) –President Barack Obama discussed his strategy to degrade and destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in a July 6th meeting with civilian and military leaders of his national security team at the Pentagon. Afterwards he spoke with press.
The strategy harnesses all elements of American power including military, intelligence, diplomatic, economic development, “and perhaps most importantly the power of our values,” President Obama said. “ISIL is opportunistic, and it is nimble. In many places in Syria and Iraq, including urban areas, it’s dug in among innocent civilian populations. It will take time to root them out.” He pledged to ramp up training, continue air strikes, and called for greater effort on the part of other nations.
American and coalition partners will help out with training and air support, but it must be local fighters who take the fight to the terrorists, Obama added.
“As with any military effort, there will be periods of progress but there are also going to be some setbacks, as we’ve seen with ISIL’s gains in Ramadi in Iraq and in Central and Southern Syria,” Obama said. Still there has been progress, he noted, with more than 5,000 airstrikes that have taken out thousands of fighting positions, tanks, vehicles, bomb factories and training camps.
“We’ve eliminated thousands of fighters, including senior ISIL commanders,” the president said. “Over the past year we've seen that, when we have an effective partner on the ground, ISIL can be pushed back.” He noted that ISIL has lost over a quarter of the populated areas it seized in IRAQ. In Syria, ISIL lost at Kobani and recently suffered losses across Northern Syria including Tal Abyad, a key city, cutting off a vital supply route to Raqqa, ISIL’s base of operations in Syria. The terror group is vulnerable and with help local forces can push back the extremists, Obama said.
“ISIL’s recent losses in both Syria and Iraq prove that ISIL can and will be defeated,” he said. “Indeed, we're intensifying our efforts against ISIL’s base in Syria. Our airstrikes will continue to target the oil and gas facilities that fund so much of their operations.” The coalition – including many local nations – will continue to go after ISIL’s leadership and infrastructure in Syria, he added.
“Partnering with other countries, sharing more information, strengthening laws and border security allows us to work to stem the flow of foreign fighters to Syria as well as Iraq and to stem, obviously, the flow of those fighters back into our own countries,” the president said. “This continues to be a challenge. And working together, all nations are going to need to do more. But we’re starting to see some progress.”
Ramping Up Training
The United States is ramping up training and support of local forces, he said. “As I’ve said before, this aspect of our strategy was moving too slowly, but the fall of Ramadi has galvanized the Iraqi government,” Obama said. In Anbar province, Iraq, more Sunni fighters are coming forward and they are being supplied. The president told his team to do more to train and equip anti-ISIL forces in Syria, too. Again, the president called for a broader political effort in the region.
“Now all this said, our strategy recognizes that no amount of military force will end the terror that is ISIL unless it’s matched by a broader effort, political and economic, that addresses the underlying conditions that have allowed ISIL to gain traction,” he said.
“So as Iraqi cities and towns are liberated from ISIL, we’re working with Iraq and the United Nations to help communities rebuild the security, services and governance that they need, and we continue to support the efforts of Prime Minister (Haydar) Abadi to forge an inclusive and effective Iraqi government that unites all the people of Iraq, Shia, Sunni, Kurds and all minority communities,” the president said.
In Syria, Obama called for the Syrian people to unite against ISIL and begin the “political transition to a new government without Bashar al-Assad, a government that serves all Syrians.”
Mark Arabo responds to President’s remarks
On the heels of President Obama’s speech at the Pentagon regarding the ISIL/ISIS crisis, Mark Arabo in San Diego, a leader of the Chaldean-Christian community in the U.S., issued this statement.
"We stand with the President’s decision to escalate the global response to ISIS,” Arabo said. “But, my fear, and the fear of many in the Chaldean Christian community is that such action has come far too late. ISIS has ingrained itself within the hearts and minds of many disenfranchised Muslims in the Middle-East. We responded too slow, and now we are left with the symptoms of this cancer that is ISIS.”