ISIL Strategy

The U.S. Strategy To Defeat ISIL and Combat the Terrorist Threat

President Obama provides an update from the Pentagon on our progress to degrade and destroy ISIL.

President Obama on the Attacks in Brussels

In the wake of the horrific attacks in Brussels, President Obama affirmed our strategy to defeat ISIL and eliminate the threat of terrorism. Here are some key points you need to know:

Defeating ISIL is the President's number one priority.

See the video here.

"My top priority is to defeat ISIL and to eliminate the scourge of this barbaric terrorism that's been taking place around the world. And we see high-profile attacks in Europe, but they're also killing Muslims throughout the Middle East -- people who are innocent, people who are guilty only of worshipping Islam in a different way than this organization. They are poisoning the minds of young people everywhere. So there's no more important item on my agenda than going after them and defeating them. The issue is how do we do it in an intelligent way." —President Obama

Targeting minorities is wrong and counterproductive in our fight against terrorism.

See the video here.

"One of the great strengths of the United States, and part of the reason why we have not seen more attacks in the United States, is we have an extraordinarily successful, patriotic, integrated Muslim American community ... They are our colleagues in our workplaces. They are our men and women in uniform fighting for our freedom. And so any approach that would single them out or target them for discrimination is not only wrong and un-American, but it also would be counterproductive, because it would reduce the strength, the antibodies that we have to resist terrorism." —President Obama

Ultimately, we will defeat ISIL and terrorist groups like it by defending our values.

See the video here.

"Groups like ISIL can't destroy us, they can't defeat us ... And even as we are systematic and ruthless and focused in going after them -- disrupting their networks, getting their leaders, rolling up their operations -- it is very important for us to not respond with fear. As I said, that's hard to do because we see the impact in such an intimate way of the attacks that they make. But we defeat them in part by saying, you are not strong; you are weak. We send a message to those who might be inspired by them to say, you are not going to change our values of liberty and openness and the respect of all people." —President Obama

Who We’re Fighting

Here’s a look at the evolution of ISIL and the terrorist threat.

The terrorists who fight for ISIL have perverted a religion into a dangerous ideology.

Our nation has been at war with terrorists since al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001. We answered that tragic attack by hardening our defenses and critical infrastructure, disrupting countless plots and pursuing terrorist networks overseas, disrupting safe havens in different countries, and decimating al Qaeda's leadership, including the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

But over the last few years, the terrorist threat has evolved. Even as we've become better at preventing complex, multifaceted attacks like 9/11, terrorists are turning to less complicated acts of violence, like homemade explosive devices or mass shootings. As the chaos in the region disrupts societies, and as the Internet erases the distance between countries, today we are seeing terrorists try to extend their ideological reach into American communities and poison the minds of people like the Boston Marathon bombers or the San Bernardino killers.

The terrorist group known as ISIL was formerly al Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq. In the summer of 2014, ISIL had surged into Iraq, directly threatening Baghdad and Erbil, including locations where U.S. personnel were located, and perpetrating horrific atrocities, beheadings, crucifixions, and immolations.

Though it calls itself the "Islamic State," it is neither Islamic nor a state. It is a terrorist organization that has perverted a religion into a dangerous ideology. ISIL terrorists have committed countless barbaric atrocities. ISIL's strategy relies on us giving into fear, abandoning our values, and allowing ourselves to be drawn into a long and costly ground war. They know if we occupy foreign lands, they can maintain insurgencies for years that will claim the lives of thousands of our troops, drain our resources, and give them leverage to draw new recruits.

A successful strategy to counter ISIL and the terrorist threat must reflect an understanding of how ISIL functions and the most effective means to dismantle and destroy their operation.

What We’re Doing

President Obama has a strategy to defeat ISIL, fight terrorism, and protect the homeland.

The President is pursuing a comprehensive strategy that draws on every aspect of American power. Here's an up-to-date look at what we're doing to combat the threat of terrorism abroad and here at home.

Supporting and Enabling Our Global Partners

On September 10, 2014, President Obama announced the formation of a broad international coalition to defeat ISIL. Since then, the United States has led 66 international partners in a global coalition to counter ISIL with a focus on liberating ISIL-controlled territory in Iraq and Syria. The mission is aimed at striking ISIL at its core, degrading its networks, and constraining its prospects for expansion. This is a multi-year effort, but we are united with our Coalition partners in making progress together to degrade and destroy ISIL.

It is global fight. It is a threat to all of us. And it is something that we need a global coalition to confront.
—Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL

Learn more about the Global Coalition and what each member is doing.

Relentlessly Pursuing ISIL's Leadership and Shrinking ISIL's Safehavens

Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, delivers remarks to press on June 10, 2016

The U.S. military killed several key Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists, including a senior ISIL leader and finance minister who led certain external affairs and plots. Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently spoke on the removal of this ISIL leader and on the campaign to hamper ISIL operations:

He was a well-known terrorist within ISIL's ranks, dating back to its earliest iteration as al-Qaida in Iraq when he worked under [the group’s leader Abu Musab al-] Zarqawi as its liaison for operations with Pakistan … The removal of this ISIL leader will hamper the organization's ability … to conduct operations both inside and outside of Iraq and Syria.

You can learn more about the Department of Defense’s Operation Inherent Resolve here.

Protecting the Homeland and Cutting Off ISIL's Finances and Foreign Fighters

In addition to intensifying the military campaign in Iraq and Syria, we are working closely with international partners to improve our homeland defenses.

Every day, I meet with the President to discuss the threats we face…his first question is always, ‘Are we doing everything we can to protect the American people?’ He does not take his eye off the ball. Ever.
—Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism

Expanding Humanitarian Support

The United States continues to lead the world in humanitarian support to the victims of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. The United States is already the largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Syrian and Iraqi people – some $5.1 billion since the start of the conflict. We provide life life-saving support, including food, water, shelter, medical care and warm clothing to those people in need throughout the region.

The challenge is to not just write a check every other year to increase refugees; it’s to stop the flow of refugees. It’s to end the war.
—John Kerry, Secretary of State

Pursuing a Diplomatic Solution to Conflicts That Feed Terrorism

As we intensify our counter-ISIL military efforts, the United States remains committed to a political transition in Syria and continues to press forward in that effort through the current hostilities.

We are reminded each in Syria that attack, every casualty, every loss, every loved one that is bombed…provides fresh grounds for the conflict.
—John Kerry, Secretary of State