President Barack Obama has claimed progress in the US-led fight against ISIL militants despite a background of political turmoil in Iraq and renewed violence in Syria.
In a rare presidential visit to CIA headquarters, Obama said it had been “a bad few months” for ISIL.
“Today, on the ground in Syria and in Iraq, ISIL is on the defensive. Our 66-member coalition, including Arab partners, is on the offensive. We have momentum, and we intend to keep that momentum (…)We continue to take out their leaders, their commanders and those plotting terrorist attacks. For ISIL’s leadership, it has been a bad few months.”
“For ISIL's leadership, it has been a bad few months.” —
POTUS</a> on our military campaign to degrade and destroy ISIL: <a href="https://t.co/sUylnvxUW6">https://t.co/sUylnvxUW6</a></p>— The White House (WhiteHouse) April 14, 2016
However Obama offered no new steps or specifics about how or if the US will beef up the fight against ISIL. The Pentagon is said to be seeking ways to increase military support including a likely increase in US forces along with the use of more equipment for in Iraqi-led combat missions.
Obama also said the ultimate solution has to be a diplomatic one. “The only way to truly destroy ISIL is to end the Syrian civil war that ISIL has exploited,” he said.
Some critics say the positives on the ground are less clear than the president makes out. In Syria, escalating fighting between the government and militants is threatening a fragile cease-fire. And in Iraq ongoing sectarianism remains a destabilising factor. In both countries any hard fought gains on the ground could be short lived.