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Obama: No US Ground Troops to Fight Islamic State

by VOA News November 16, 2015

U.S. President Barack Obama says the Paris attacks were a 'terrible and sickening setback' in the fight against the Islamic State but stressed that it would be a mistake to send American ground troops to the Middle East to fight the militants.

Speaking at the end of the G-20 Summit in Turkey, Obama defended the U.S. military's air campaign in Iraq and Syria to support regional fighters on the ground waging war on the Islamic State, which he reffered to as the 'face of evil'.

Obama said the U.S. could hypothetically send 50,000 ground troops into Syria to overwhelm the Islamic State insurgents. But he said the strategy would not ultimately work in the absence of a permanent U.S. occupation in Syria, even as other terrorist threats emerge elsewhere in the Mideast or southeast Asia.

He has opposed the use of ground troops before, but rejected new calls for their deployment from Republican presidential candidates in the U.S. to fight the Islamic State in the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday.

'What I won't do,' Obama said, 'is to take actions that work politically...or in the abstract make America look tough or me look tough. We'll do what it takes to make America safe. The strategy we are pursuing is the right one.'

Obama said he has not underestimated the threat of Islamic State terrorist actions in the U.S. and elsewhere, saying, 'If you have a handful of people willing to die, they can kill a lot of people.'

Refugees

He said the U.S. would not end its plan to accept thousands of Syrian refugees into the country, even as European authorities say one of the attackers in Paris entered Europe as part of the wave of migrants fleeing to the continent to escape the four-year civil war in Syria. But Obama said refugees would only be admitted to the U.S. after being subjected to 'rigorous screening and security.'

The American leader rejected calls from some of his U.S. political opponents that only Syrian Christians and not Muslims be allowed to enter the U.S. as refugees. He called such a stance 'shameful, not American,' and said the United States should not 'feed that dark impulse.'

Obama said the U.S. often collects intelligence that suggests overseas terrorist attacks might be in the offing, but that it had 'no specific mention of (the Paris) attack that we could provide France,' nothing that it could have taken military action against.

Increased cooperation

The world leaders at the summit vowed to increase intelligence sharing, tighten their national borders and attempt to cut off terrorist funding in the aftermath of the deadly attacks in Paris. Obama said the U.S. and France have entered a new pact to 'streamline' the sharing of intelligence they have collected.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the world leaders 'agreed that the challenge can't just be tackled with military means, but only a multitude of measures.'

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans to host a donor conference early next year to raise ``significant new funding'' to tackle the flood of refugees leaving Syria for Europe in the continent's biggest migration since World War II.

'None of this is a substitute,' Cameron said, 'for the next urgent need of all: to find a political solution that brings peace to Syria and enables the millions of refugees to return home.'

Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized the need for joint action in 'fighting this evil, something we should have done a long time ago.'

Cameron's office said that Putin told the British leader in a meeting on the sidelines of the summit that Moscow intends to do more to combat the Islamic State militants. Russia has been conducting an aerial campaign in Syria that to now has mostly targeted groups fighting forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rather than the Islamic State.

'Attack on the civilized world'

Obama met with several heads of states the summit, held at a Turkish resort on the Mediterranean. He called last Friday's terrorism in Paris an 'attack on the civilized world.'

The meeting of world leaders was meant to focus on trade, energy and climate change, but the terrorist attacks in Paris overshadowed all topics. But the heads of state crafted a statement pledging to take action at the upcoming United Nations climate change conference in Paris to limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius.

Obama met with Cameron, Merkel, Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Monday. French President Francois Hollande was scheduled to come to the meeting but remained in France following the terrorist attack on Paris.

Obama has vowed to help France in "hunting down the perpetrators" of Friday's Paris attacks and said he plans to 'redouble' efforts to eliminate the Islamic State group, known in Arabic as Daesh.



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