AP interactive: Learn more about the Islamic State and history of unrest in Iraq and Syria.
President Barack Obama ordered the United States into an expanded military effort to “degrade and ultimately destroy” Islamic State militants in a televised address to the nation Wednesday night.
Obama authorized airstrikes inside Syria for the first time as well as an expansion of strikes in Iraq.
Obama also announced he was dispatching nearly 500 more U.S. troops to Iraq to assist that country’s security forces, but vowed the U.S. will not re-enter a ground war in the region.
He also called on Congress to authorize a program to train and arm rebels in Syria who are fighting both the Islamic State group and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“This is not our fight alone,” Obama declared. “American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region.
“Our objective is clear: We will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.”
Speaking on the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Obama’s plans also amounted to an admission that years of American-led war in the Middle East have not quelled the terror threat emanating from the region.
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, responded to the speech by saying, “President Obama took several generalizations and called them a strategy tonight.
“American leadership is desperately needed in the world right now, and we need to know what that means for real Americans,” Collins said in a statement provided to The Times by his Washington office.
“What’s most troubling is that President Obama didn’t define what victory over ISIL will look like. For me and my constituents, I believe that’s a world without terror — not ‘rolled back’ or ‘degraded’ terror, but no terror. That is our hope.”
Tuesday, Collins introduced legislation in the House allowing for an emergency short-term suspension in the U.S. State Department’s Visa Waiver Program to thwart attempts by terrorists with Western passports to enter the U.S.
“Terrorism will not stop the free flow of people and commerce, but it will not exploit that freedom, either,” Collins said.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, "After calling on the president to take additional actions against ISIL, I am encouraged by his statement this evening and his willingness to take strong action to defeat ISIL. Tonight, the president has announced the United States' willingness to lead a coalition to destroy ISIL, and I support these efforts."