President Barack Obama said Friday that the Islamic State must be dismantled, a clearer statement than he offered earlier this week about the terror group that's executed two American journalists and embarked on a bloody push through Iraq and Syria.
“You can't contain an organization that is running roughshod through that much territory, causing that much havoc, displacing that many people, killing that many innocents, enslaving that many women,” Obama said at a press conference after a two-day NATO summit in Wales. "The goal has to be to dismantle them."
“I'm pleased to see there's unanimity among our friends and allies that that is a worthy goal and they're prepared to work with us in accomplishing that goal,” Obama said of the other NATO countries.
During a press conference in Estonia this week, Obama seemed to offer mixed signals, saying first that the goal was to “destroy” the Islamic State, but later that the goal was to make it a “manageable problem.”
Obama said taking down the Islamic State would be similar to disrupting Al Qaeda.
“You initially push them back. You systemically degrade their capabilities. You narrow their scope of action. You slowly shrink the space, the territory, that they may control. You take out their leadership, and, over time, they are not able to conduct the same kinds of terrorist attacks as they once could," Obama said.
Administration critics have long questioned Obama's assertion that Al Qaeda has been turned back.
Obama said there are still remnants of larger terrorist organizations.
“We will continue to hunt them down the same way we're doing with remnants of Al Qaeda in the Fatah or elements of Al Shabab in Somalia terrorists who operate anywhere around the world. But what we can accomplish is to dismantle this network, this force, that has claimed to control this much territory, so that they can't do us harm,” Obama said.
Obama has ordered airstrikes targeting the Islamic State in Iraq, though has held off on similar strikes in Syria, where the Islamic State is just one part of the equation in the civil war-torn country opposing President Bashar Assad.
Obama said the U.S. will not be placing ground troops in Syria, but said the U.S. must have effective partners on the ground.
“They have been, to some degree, outgunned and outmanned and that's why it's important for us to work with our friends and allies to support them more effectively,” Obama said. “But keep in mind that when you have U.S. forces, other advanced nations, going after ISIL and putting them on the defensive and putting them on the run, it's pretty remarkable what, then, ground forces can do, even if initially they were on the defensive against ISIL.”