Obama to prepare US for military campaign in Syria against Islamic State

National address on eve of 9/11 will outline plan for military action, aid for US-backed opposition forces in Syria fighting Islamic State.

US president Barack Obama addresses reporters in the White House press briefing room, (photo credit: REUTERS)
US president Barack Obama addresses reporters in the White House press briefing room,
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON -- US President Barack Obama will tell the American people on Wednesday night that he plans to order strikes against Islamic State forces in both Syria and Iraq until the group is ultimately destroyed.
The president's plan includes additional support for opposition militias in Syria vetted by the United States, which will serve as a ground force complementing America's air campaign.
Former Kurdish fighters or Peshmerga forces currently serve that role in America's air war against Islamic State in Iraq, holding cleared ground after US strikes occur. Obama has ruled out introducing US combat troops on the ground.
The new policy in Obama's speech will be his expressed intent to strike the group in Syria, after months of deliberation among members of the National Security Council.
The "comprehensive strategy," as described by one White House official, will involve "US military action and support for the forces combating ISIL [Islamic State] on the ground– both the opposition in Syria and a new, inclusive Iraqi government."
Speaking from the State Floor of the White House, Obama will also discuss a coalition of partners he has rallied to the fight, which thus far includes the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Islamic State, a fundamentalist Sunni army with more than 18,000 soldiers and billions of dollars in cash-flow, has stormed territory throughout eastern Syria and northern Iraq since June of this year. The US defense and intelligence communities view the group as the richest and most menacing terrorist organization ever to face the homeland.
In a long, private meeting on his plans in the Oval Office on Tuesday, Obama informed leaders in Congress that he does not require their authorization for the use of force in Syria against the terrorist group, which poses a direct security threat to the US.
"The president told the leaders that he has the authority he needs to take action against ISIL in accordance with the mission he will lay out in his address tomorrow night," the White House said in a readout from the meeting.
Republican leaders are pushing back, however, casting a political tone over the speech hours before its delivery. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said the president "ought" to do seek approval, and Bob Corker (R-TN), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Obama would display an "extreme lack of judgement" if he chose to act alone.
National security staff briefed the president earlier on Tuesday on the country's "security posture" entering the thirteenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
The official responsible for monitoring those threat streams, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, has said in recent days that the intelligence community has no evidence of an imminent attack to mark the anniversary.
"Monaco has convened counterterrorism and homeland security leaders across the government to review our security posture in light of not only this anniversary but the range of global threats we face," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Tuesday night.
The president's address on Wednesday night is scheduled for 9:00 pm EST.