BELEK, Turkey, Nov. 16 (UPI) — Speaking from the G20 summit in Turkey, U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday rejected traditional military strategy and sending ground troops in the fight against the Islamic State.
Obama said putting U.S. boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria would be a mistake. He reiterated his commitment to the United States’ current strategy of leading a coalition conducting airstrikes against the IS — also identified as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL.
The United States has also trained some moderate rebels with weaponry to fight the Sunni Islamist group.
“The strategy that we are putting forward is the strategy that is ultimately going to work. It’s going to take time,” Obama said. “It is not just my view, but the view of my closest military and civilian advisers, that [boots on the ground] would be a mistake.
“This is not a traditional military opponent,” Obama added. “We can retake territory and, as long as we keep our troops there, we can hold it, but that does not solve the underlying problem of eliminating the dynamics that are producing these kinds of violent, extremist groups.”
The president also rejected the notion that the White House underestimated the Islamic State.
“If you have a handful of people who don’t mind dying, they can kill a lot of people,” Obama said. “That’s one of the challenges of terrorism. It’s the ideology that they carry with them and their willingness to die.”
Syria has been blighted by a complex civil war in which the Islamic State, the Syrian government and multiple Syrian rebel groups fight for control of territory, causing a mass exodus of migrants seeking refuge elsewhere.
Obama said the suggestion by presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush that the United States only allow Christian refugees into the country was “shameful.”
“That’s not American. That’s not who we are,” Obama said during a news conference. “We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”
Obama made the comments after Bush said that when it comes to refugees, the United States “should focus our efforts … [on] the Christians that are being slaughtered.”
Obama’s strategy against the Islamic State has been sharply criticized following the coordinated attacks in Paris killed at least 129 people. Several politicians took Obama to task for saying one day prior to the Paris attacks that IS had been “contained.”
The attacks have renewed an urgency by world leaders to resolve the political and humanitarian crisis amid the Syrian civil war.
“The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism; they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife,” Obama said, adding that it was important that “we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence, and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.”
Shortly after his news conference Monday, Obama left Turkey for the next leg on his overseas trip — Manila.