Obama defends his failed strategy against ISIS, saying it will ‘take time’, while Russia and now France obliterate them
The carnage of the Paris attacks and the largely stalemated war in Iraq and Syria have prompted heavy criticism of President Obama’s handling of the fight against the Islamic State over the past three years.
The questions came in waves Monday at the Group of 20 summit in Antalya, Turkey: Hadn’t Obama underestimated the threat posed by the Islamic State? Wasn’t it time for a new and more aggressive attack plan? Did he really understand the group well enough to defeat it and protect the United States?
“All right,” Obama replied to the last question, his tone betraying utter indignation. “So this is a variation on the same question. . . . Let me try it one last time.”
In response to each of the questions posed by reporters, Obama made his case for a steady and persistent campaign that seeks to gradually shrink the Islamic State’s territory in Iraq and Syria with airstrikes, slowly build up indigenous ground forces and press for renewed diplomatic negotiations to end Syria’s civil war.
The questions reflected concerns following the Paris attacks — which killed 129 people and led France’s president to promise a “merciless” response — that Obama had missed opportunities to defeat the group when it was still gaining strength.
Now Obama is in the unenviable position of championing a strategy that even he admits could take years to work, and could be marked by significant setbacks and more terrorist attacks like those in Paris.
“The strategy that we are putting forward is the strategy that is ultimately going to work,” the president told reporters Monday. “But as I said from the start, it is going to take time.”