Obama calls for discredit of Islamic State's 'twisted thinking'

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey will testify before Congress Tuesday.
By Ed Adamczyk and Danielle Haynes  |  Updated July 6, 2015 at 9:17 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 6 (UPI) -- Though there have been some setbacks, U.S. President Barack Obama says he remains committed to the "destruction" of the Islamic State, emphasizing a "larger battle for hearts and minds."

Obama spoke Monday after making a rare visit to the Pentagon to be briefed on the Defense Department's efforts to defeat IS -- also identified as Daesh and by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL.

He said efforts to defeat the terror group shouldn't just be focused on military might. He called for governments and individuals alike to "discredit their ideology, their twisted thinking," which draws extremists to their ranks.

"Ideologies are not defeated by guns, they're defeated by better ideas, a more attractive and much more compelling vision," he said.

Additionally, Obama said it was important to been seen in words and deeds that the United States is not at odds with the Muslim faith.

"This larger battle for hearts and minds is going to be a generational struggle," he said. "It's ultimately not going to be won or lost by the United States alone. It will be decided by the countries and communities that terrorists like ISIL target."

He said the United States, along with a coalition of 60 countries, has caused IS to lose key locations it once held, including the Mosul Damn, Mount Sinjar and Kirkuk in Iraq, as well as Kobani and Tell Abyad in Syria.

Obama said the fight against IS "will not be quick," but the U.S. military has increased its training and support of Iraqi forces. He announced in June that 450 additional U.S. troops would be sent to advise and train Iraqi troops attempting to recapture the city of Ramadi, which fell to IS fighters in May. The arrival of the U.S. soldiers will bring their number in Iraq to 3,550.

"In many places in Syria and Iraq, including urban areas, [IS has] dug in among innocent civilian populations," he said. "It will take time to root them out. Doing so must be the job of local forces on the ground with training and air support from our coalition."

He said there are currently no plans to send any ground troops to fight IS.

"The strong consensus is that in order for us to succeed longterm we have to develop local security forces that can sustain progress," Obama said. "It's not enough for us to simply send in American troops to temporarily setback organizations like ISIL, but then as soon as we leave to see that void filled with extremists.

"If we try to do everything ourselves all across the Middle East, all across north Africa, we'll be playing whack-a-mole."

An anti-IS coalition in Syria, with which the United States is involved, conducted 18 airstrikes in Raqqa, Syria, over the weekend; it also launched 26 airstrikes in Iraq.

The Pentagon visit comes a day prior to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter's scheduled testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on progress in the Middle East. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey will also testify Tuesday.

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