US President Barack Obama says that Islamic State’s power and influence in Iraq and Syria has been degraded, but warned that the terror group still poses a threat in the Middle East and beyond.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with top Pentagon officials, Obama said that as the group lost territory, it has begun moving its focus to terror attacks abroad.
The President made clear that IS was “not invincible” and said that it was inevitable that they would eventually be defeated. However, he warned that “the possibility of a lone actor or a small cell that kills people is real” and that IS-linked cells in the US could be activated.
IS has not had a single major offensive victory on the battlefield in the last year, and with the help of coalition air strikes the Iraqi military is pushing towards Mosul, while the Kurds continue to make ground against the group in Syria. However, the group has managed to inflict terror attacks beyond its borders in Iraq, France, Germany, Bangladesh, Turkey, and other countries.
Nonetheless, Obama said the US and its allies need to be careful to avoid civilian casualties and framing the conflict “as a clash of civilisations between the West and Islam”, which would suit IS’ narrative and bolster their support around the globe.
Earlier this week, the US announced that it launched a series of air strikes on IS strongholds in and around the city of Sirte in Libya at the request of the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA). US military leaders have become increasingly concerned about IS creating a secondary base in Libya as it loses ground in Syria and Iraq.