President Obama plans to outline what he calls a "steady, relentless effort" to defeat Islamic State terrorists "wherever they exist" in a primetime address to the nation on Wednesday.
The president will use the 9 p.m. speech from the White House to announce that the U.S. will lead a "broad coalition" of allies in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere to take out an advancing terrorist group that has brutally murdered American citizens and retaken territory in Iraq secured during the U.S.'s long war there.
"Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy," Obama will say during the speech, according to excerpts released by the White House on Wednesday evening.
The excerpts suggest that the president will try to navigate between preparing the nation for another sustained military effort in the Middle East while insisting, as he has before, that he is not committing the U.S. to a long ground war likes the ones it waged in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade.
I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”
Obama is expected to announce that he is expanding the campaign of airstrikes he has already begun in Iraq, potentially into Syria. The president and other senior administration officials began lobbying Congress intensely on Tuesday and Wednesday to approve language authorizing the arming and equipping of Syrian rebels who are fighting ISIS.
At the same time, the administration does not believe he needs formal congressional authorization for the full military effort, even though Obama expects it could take years.
Obama will also announce that the Treasury Department will take steps to cut off the Islamic State's finances, similar to efforts the U.S. pursued against Al Qaeda and the Taliban after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Administration officials have argued that the strategy Obama is announcing against ISIS is consistent with how he has successfully targeted other terrorist groups over the years – by partnering both with global allies and by providing air support for opposition groups fighting on the ground.