President Obama again detailed America's expanded military mission against jihadists with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, in his weekly address Saturday, vowing a "targeted, relentless counterterrorism campaign" against the extremists that have swept across much of Iraq and Syria in recent months.
The president first explained his anti-ISIS strategy in a primetime speech from the White House Wednesday evening, and much of his address Saturday reiterated the points he made in his earlier speech.
He said America would continue launching targeted airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and that the U.S. is "prepared" to take action in Syria as well. He said the U.S. would send additional troops to Iraq to advise local groups fighting the extremists. And he also touted new involvement from "allies and partners" in the fight against ISIS.
"This week, Arab nations agreed to strengthen their support for the new Iraqi government and to do their part in the fight against [ISIS], including aspects of the military campaign," he said. "Saudi Arabia will join the effort to help train and equip moderate Syrian opposition forces. And retired Marine Gen. John Allen -- who during the Iraq war worked with Sunnis in Iraq as they fought to reclaim their communities from terrorists -- will serve as our special envoy to help build and coordinate our growing coalition."
Secretary of State John Kerry has been jet-setting throughout the region this week to corral support from Arab Gulf states and other regional partners to help defuse the threat posed by ISIS.
Back home, Congress is already knee-deep in negotiations on a proposal that would give the president authority to equip and train the moderate Syrian rebel groups. Democratic and Republican leaders have advised their rank-and-file to support the president's request. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for example, said Thursday that it's "important we give the president what he's asking for."
"The issue here is about defeating a terrorist threat that is real and imminent," Boehner said.
The president said Saturday that U.S. intelligence services have "not yet detected specific [ISIS] plots against our homeland," but he noted that ISIS leaders "have repeatedly threatened the United States."
"If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States," he said. "So we're staying vigilant."
U.S. officials are particularly concerned about the thousands of foreign fighters who have flocked to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS' cause. Officials estimate that ISIS can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 foreign fighters -- an increase from a previous estimate of roughly 10,000. Of those thousands, over a hundred may be Americans. The fear is that those individuals may evade detection and return home, battle-hardened and ready to attack the U.S.
Despite the expansion of the U.S. campaign against ISIS, Mr. Obama pledged to "avoid the mistakes of the past," effectively ruling out the commitment of American troops to a combat role in the conflict.
"American military power is unmatched, but this can't be America's fight alone," he said. "And the best way to defeat a group like [ISIS] isn't by sending large numbers of American combat forces to wage a ground war in the heart of the Middle East. That wouldn't serve our interests. In fact, it would only risk fueling extremism even more."
In the weekly Republican address Saturday, Arizona congressional candidate Andy Tobin condemned Democrats for "overregulation" and deficit spending, saying it's time to "restore the balance of power for hardworking taxpayers."
Tobin, the speaker of the Arizona House, also stressed the imperative of repealing Obamacare, warning of insurance rate hikes and people losing access to their longtime doctors.
Tobin said that House Republicans are making a "good-faith" effort to advance ideas to help the middle class but Senate Democrats "won't give them a vote."
"They're more worried about losing their Senate majority than the concerns of the American people," he said.