Washington: US President Barack Obama on Thursday announced that his country will launch a systematic campaign of air strikes against the Islamic State (IS) militants and ensure they have 'no safe haven'.
Obama said in a nationally televised speech that he has authorised US air strikes for the first time in Syria and more attacks in Iraq.
The decision to launch air strikes inside Syria shows America is taking the threat from Islamic State seriously. Only a year ago, the US President had shied away from launching air strikes against the Syrian government for its use of chemical weapons against Syrians.
"I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are," Obama said in a nationally televised speech. "That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq," he said using an acronym for the Islamist militant group.
"Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy," Obama said.
"This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven," Obama said, even as America prepared to mark the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on Thursday.
"We can't erase every trace of evil... We must remain vigilant as threats emerge."
"Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not 'Islamic.' No religion condones the killing of innocents," Obama said. "In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality," he added.
He announced that 475 more US service members will be sent to Iraq, but no troops will be sent on “combat mission" to fight on foreign soil.
He further called on the US Congress to give him "additional authorities and resources to train and equip" the Syrian opposition, saying they were the "best counterweight" to IS fighters, who have seized wide swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria.
"In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorises its people; a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost," he said, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
He sought to underline that the operation against IS could go on for long.
“It will take time to eradicate Islamic State, there are risks involved for US forces.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Obama spoke to Saudi King Abdullah, underlining Riyadh`s crucial role in an anti-IS front, and reached out to lawmakers to seek Congressional support for his plans.
France offered Obama a well-timed boost, saying it was prepared to join an already launched US air campaign against IS targets in Iraq if necessary.
In Iraq, meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry promised that the country`s armed forces, some of which fled when IS marched into western Sunni districts, would be "reconstituted and trained and worked on.
In a related development, Obama also freed up US $25 million to equip Iraqi government and Kurdish troops to fight IS.
(With agency inputs)