ANTALYA, Turkey (AP/MEDIA GENERAL) — President Barack Obama gave emotional and sometimes forceful statements Monday in Antalya, Turkey at the G20 Summit which has taken on new importance since the attacks in Paris.
President Obama conceded that the Paris terror attacks were a “terrible and sickening setback” in the fight against the Islamic State, but forcefully dismissed critics who have called for the U.S. to change or expand its military campaign against the extremists.
Our strategy can work
“We’ve seen that when we have an effective partner on the ground ISIL can and is pushed back,” Obama said during his speech.
“The strategy that we are putting forward is the strategy that is ultimately is going to work,” Obama repeated during a news conference at the close of two days of talks with world leaders. “It’s going to take time.”
Open to good ideas
“My only interest is to end suffering and keep the American people safe. And, if there’s a good idea out there, we’re going to do it. I don’t think I’ve shown hesitation to act whether it’s in respect to Bin Laden or respect to sending additional troops to Afghanistan or keeping them there if it’s determined it’s actually going to work,” said Obama.
Ground troops would be a mistake
“There have been a few who have suggested that we put a large number of U.S. troops on the ground. Keep in mind, we have the finest military in the world and the finest military minds in the world. And, I’ve been meeting with them intensively for years now discussing these various options and it is not just my view, but the view of my closest military and civilian advisers that that would be a mistake,” Obama said.
“We send troops in…They get killed.”
The president grew irritated amid repeated questions about whether he had underestimated the strength of the Islamic State. He said most of his critics are simply “talking as if they’re tough” and offering no real ideas. And he brushed aside those who call for sending U.S. ground troops into the region, saying that “would be a mistake” and wouldn’t work unless the U.S. was committed to being a permanent occupying force in the region.
“This is not an abstraction,” Obama said. “When we send troops in, those troops get injured. They get killed.”
The president got emotional talking about injured soldiers.
“Every few months I go to Walter Reed and I see a 25-year-old kid who is paralyzed or who has lost his limbs. And, some of those people I have ordered into battle. So, I can’t afford to play some of the political games others make.”
Working with France
Rather than casting about for a new strategy, Obama said U.S. would intensify its current campaign of airstrikes and arming and training moderate forces. And he called on other nations to step up their involvement in the fight against the extremists.
The president also announced a new effort to share intelligence with France following the coordinated terror spree across Paris that killed at least 129 people. Officials said the U.S. was already using intelligence to help France identify targets in the flurry of airstrikes France launched against the Islamic State’s stronghold in Syria following the attacks.
“We’re working closely with our French partners as they pursue their investigations and track down suspects. France is already a strong counterterrorism partner, and today we announce a new agreement. We’re streamlining the process with which we share intelligence and operational military information with France. This will allow our personnel to pass threat information including on ISIL to France more quickly and more often because we need to do everything we can to protect against more attacks and protect our citizens,” Obama said.
While officials say the U.S. had been aware of the Islamic State’s desire to strike targets outside the Middle East, Obama said he had not been briefed on any intelligence that indicated an attack in Paris was likely.
“I’m not aware of anything that was specific,” he said.