President Obama will talk to the country on the eve of the anniversary of the September 11 attacks to lay out his plan to “start going on some offense” against ISIS. Although the administration has “not seen any immediate intelligence about threats to the homeland,” ISIS could eventually become a “serious threat” to the United States, Obama explained on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. The president will be meeting with congressional leaders on Tuesday and then on Wednesday will “make a speech and describe what our game plan’s going to be going forward.”
President Obama’s interview with NBC came as the military launched a new series of air strikes around Haditha Dam in western Iraq in order to prevent ISIS militants from capturing the key facility. The strikes marked an expansion in the air campaign against Sunni extremists taking operations closer to the Syrian border, reports the Associated Press.
The one thing Obama wanted to be make clear in the interview that was recorded Saturday and broadcast Sunday is that he was not planning on sending U.S. combat troops to combat ISIS. He made that point at least three times during the interview, saying that it “would be a profound mistake” to put “boots on the ground” making sure to emphasize that “this is no the equivalent of the Iraq war.” The president also made sure to point out the United States is not alone, saying that “the entire international community understands that this is something that has to be dealt with” and there is a “broad-based coalition” determined to fight ISIS. He did not say whether the United States would carry out air strikes in Syria but he hinted that might be a possibility: “the strategy both for Iraq and for Syria is that we will hunt down ISIL members and assets wherever they are.”
The interview, and the planned speech, clearly mark an effort by the president to combat accusations that he does not have a strategy to combat ISIS. During the NBC interview he recognized that playing golf minutes after he talked to the press about the beheading of journalist James Foley may not have been the best idea. “I should've anticipated the optics,” Obama said. “Part of this job is also the theater of it” but it isn’t something “that always comes naturally to me.”