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Obama to Discuss Islamic State Policy at Pentagon

by AFP
Nicholas Kamm—AFP

Nicholas Kamm—AFP

U.S. president hopes to convince American public his administration is on track to defeat militant group.

Facing intense scrutiny about his counterterror policy, President Barack Obama will huddle with top security brass and deliver an address at the Pentagon on Monday, hoping to underscore his role as commander-in-chief.

The White House said Obama will hold the meeting of his National Security Council and give remarks, just days after he gave an Oval Office primetime address on the terror threat that received a mixed response from Americans.

No major policy changes are expected, but Obama will again try to convince a skeptical public that his administration is charting the correct course in tackling the Islamic State group.

Even before an Islamist attack in San Bernardino, California killed 14 people, polls showed that more than 60 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Obama is handling the Islamic State and the broader terror threat. Obama has ruled out putting infantry boots on the ground in Syria, saying it would be counterproductive to the fight against the militant group. Instead, he has advocated a multipronged strategy of airstrikes, special forces operations, financial sanctions and diplomacy aimed at making Syria less chaotic.

“You’re going to receive an update from the president’s national security team on the campaign to degrade and destroy that terrorist organization,” said White house spokesman Josh Earnest, previewing Obama’s visit. “The president has tasked his team with constantly assessing the performance of different aspects of our strategy.”

While Obama was praised for trying to tamp down anti-Muslim rhetoric in his Oval Office address, his overall strategy has faced withering criticism, most shrilly from Republicans trying to replace him in the White House. But calmer voices have also suggested that Obama—with the failures of occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan seared into his political psyche—has been too reluctant about deploying troops.

Obama’s address “outlined no new tactics, no new military deployments, no innovative ways to speed the enemy’s destruction,” said Robert Satloff, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank.

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