President Obama on Wednesday pledged that the U.S. would “degrade and destroy” the Islamist terrorist group responsible for the beheading of two American journalists, saying the U.S. was “repulsed” by the slayings.
"We will not be intimidated," Obama said during a joint press conference in Estonia. "Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take the fight against these terrorists. And those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget, and that our reach is long and that justice will be served."
The president’s comments came the morning after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) released a video depicting the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff, and two weeks after the terror group released a video similarly depicting the death of American journalist James Foley.
“Whatever these murderers think they'll achieve by killing innocent Americans like Steven, they have already failed," Obama said, pledging an international effort against the "the kind of barbaric and empty vision that [ISIS] represents."
The president said the effort against ISIS would "take some time, but it is going to get done." He vowed to make sure ISIS was “no longer a threat to Iraq, the region and United States.”
"Our objective is to make sure that ISIL is not an ongoing threat to the region. We can accomplish that,” Obama said, using an alternate acronym for the group.
Separately, the White House on Wednesday confirmed that U.S. intelligence had deemed the video showing Sotloff's beheading to be authentic.
The most recent slaying has strengthened calls on Capitol Hill for the president to launch airstrikes against ISIS strongholds inside of Syria, with Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonTechnology is easy but politics is hard for NASA's Lunar Human Landing System Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by The American Petroleum Institute — Climate change turning US into coffee country Elon Musk mocks Biden for ignoring his company's historic space flight MORE (D-Fla.) saying Tuesday he would offer legislation authorizing the president to do so.
Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Eliot Engel (N.Y.), the committee’s ranking Democrat, also called for airstrikes in the aftermath of the Sotloff video.
“Target them and target the terrorist training camp, where they’re bringing thousands of fighters from around the world, putting them through training over a period of weeks to teach them how to conduct terrorist activities,” Royce said on CNN. “Those camps and the munitions should be targeted as well.”
But the president did not offer any indication that his timeline for military action against the militants in Syria had accelerated following the video’s release.
More broadly, the president defended his overall effort against the terror group, which has been criticized after he said during a press conference last week he had “no strategy” yet to confront ISIS in Syria.
Obama said work to “degrade and destroy” ISIS within Iraq had been “moving effectively” and that his comment was referring only to the “possibility of a military strategy in Syria.”
"Our objective is to make sure ISIL is not an ongoing threat to the region,” Obama said.
Obama's visit to Estonia came a day before a NATO summit meeting in Wales, where the president said he would discuss the threat posed by ISIS with European leaders. The president said he hoped NATO would "work with us to help create partnerships regionally" to confront ISIS, saying the allied countries needed to evolve to combat "a particular brand of extremism" that "continues to metastasize."