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Obama to Islamic State: 'America Does Not Forget

US President Barack Obama speaks at the American Legion's 96th National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, August 26, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama issued a warning to Islamic State terrorists on Tuesday, one week after photojournalist James Foley was slain: "America does not forget."

President Barack Obama speaks at the American Legion's 96th national convention in Charlotte, N.C., Aug. 26, 2014. (AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB SAUL LOEB)

“Our message to anyone who harms our people is simple. America does not forget,” Obama said, speaking at the American Legion's national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Our reach is long. We are patient. Justice will be done. We have proved time and time again we will do what's necessary to capture those who harm Americans – to go after those who harm Americans.”

Obama said that American ground troops will not return to combat in Iraq to face the Sunni militant group that's captured large swaths of Iraq and Syria, but he did affirm that the U.S. will keep up airstrikes to help the Iraqi government defend itself against the terrorists that's vowed to establish an Islamic state across the Middle East.

“We will continue to take direct action where needed to defend our people and protect our homeland, and rooting out a cancer like ISIL won't be easy and won't be quick,” Obama said. “But tyrants and murderers before them should recognize that kind of hateful vision is no match for the strength of hopes of people who stand together for the security and dignity and freedom of that is the birthright of every human being.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest didn't say whether Obama would seek congressional authorization to take action in Syria, after not receiving any last year following indications that President Bashar Assad had used of chemical weapons on his people.

“The situation last year was markedly different,” Earnest told reporters Tuesday. “What we’re talking about now is confronting a terrorist group that has sought a safe haven in Syria. This is a group that poses a threat to Americans in the region and could potentially down the line pose a broader threat to American interests and our allies around the world.”

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that the Islamic State could not be defeated without addressing Syria.

Earnest stressed Obama hasn’t made a decision to go after the group in Syria.

“We have not speculated about what authority would be required from Congress if the president were to make a decision to authorize the use of military force in Syria,” Earnest said. “Since he hasn’t made that decision, we haven’t talked about what type of authority he may or may not use. We haven’t speculated that far. If we reach the point where the president does make a decision to use military force in Syria, then that will open up an additional set of questions that you are raising right now.”

If the U.S. does proceed with a strike in Syria, Earnest said, the administration still does not recognize Assad as the leader of Syria, still in the midst of a civil war.

“There are no plans to change that policy and there are no plans to coordinate with the Assad regime,” Earnest said.

Follow Fred Lucas (@FredVLucas3) on Twitter

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