The following is an op-ed written by Barack Obama, President of the United States.
Just over a decade ago, under my predecessor, our forces embarked on a campaign to fight the Global War on Terror after Al Qaeda terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Our military performed flawlessly in Afghanistan, routing the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and ultimately, denied the terror group a sanctuary from where it could attack us again.
Today we stand secure, knowing that Osama bin Laden is dead, and his organization of Al Qaeda is decimated, unable to operate anywhere on the earth. And with our strike against Iraq, we have deposed a dictator and brought peace and freedom to a Middle Eastern country.
Now, I was critical of the Iraq war in 2003 and strongly opposed it for many years. I felt at the time that our actions in a country where we had limited understanding of the culture could see U.S. soldiers standing in the crosshairs of a sectarian divide between Shia and Sunni.
Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
The war came to a close, and by all accounts, it was a rousing success. Our American Army defied the naysayers who likened the conflict to a Vietnam quagmire. The comparison was laughable of course, considering our involvement in Vietnam was almost two years longer than in Iraq.
But sadly, a new terror group has emerged. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, a band of brutal thugs who have overtaken parts of Syria and Iraq, could potentially attack us at home again. Much like our medical professionals who have found a cure for cancer, we will find a cure for the cancer of ISIL.
While I don’t wish to arouse fear and hysteria amongst the public, let me be clear: ISIL is a threat to every interest we have and it is beyond anything we have ever seen. It has an apocalyptic end-of-days vision that threatens our very existence.
So that’s why I have ordered an extremely limited engagement against ISIL forces and am assuring the American people that we will not put boots on the ground. We are clearly at war with these extremists, and when faced with an enemy of such dangerous magnitude, it is the only choice we have.
You may have heard my primetime address where I outlined my strategy to degrade and defeat ISIL. In the speech, I used our efforts in Somalia and Yemen as models for what we can achieve. With drone strikes over the past few years, we have completely destroyed Al Shabaab in Somalia and AQAP in Yemen, although we’re still trying to figure out what that acronym stands for.
I’d like to highlight a few more points here to assure the American people that we will win this war against these terrorists — at some point in the future which may be three to four, or even maybe six to seven years from now, but it’s kind of hard to say at this point — and the threat will be diminished.
First, we will begin conducting airstrikes inside Syria at a time and place of our choosing. Under the direction of Gen. Lloyd Austin at Central Command, the military will target key militant facilities, armament, and weaponry, until they smarten up and completely blend in with the local populace.
While we bomb ISIL, which is fighting against the Free Syrian Army, Jabhat al-Nusra, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — who we don’t want to support because he’s a war criminal but we’re kind of supporting him but nevermind that — we will support moderate elements of the Free Syrian Army, which is fighting ISIL, Jabhat al-Nusra, and Assad.
We will take great pains to not enter someone else’s civil war, because that’s a first class ticket to failure.
Second, we will train moderate Syrian rebels and Iraqi security forces to take the fight to ISIL. As our experience has taught us in Iraq, the key to winning a war in the Middle East is to train up locals to “own” the battle and take charge of their future. In Mosul, we saw how our training efforts truly paid off, as Iraqi Army units bravely held ground when attacked by militants.
Our troops have long shown what can be achieved with shifting objectives, no strategic foresight, and vigorous support from the American people who don’t have to sacrifice anything. I call on each and every American to tie a yellow ribbon around a tree, bake an American flag cake, and support the troops who are fighting for your freedom.
In closing, I must stress that our war on terror began with Al Qaeda, but it did not end there. I pray that we soon reach our limited objectives in time for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run.
Thank you, and God bless America.
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