President Obama on Monday stressed solidarity with the French people and defended his administration’s policy in fighting ISIS after deadly attacks rocked France late last week.
“ISIS is the face of evil,” Obama said at the conclusion of the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey. “Our goal is to … destroy this barbaric organization.”
Three teams of terrorists — all outfitted with suicide vests and armed with Kalashnikovs — swarmed six locations in Paris on Friday night and killed 129 people in a spree of shootings and explosions. France’s president called the attacks — which ISIS claimed responsibility for — an “act of war” and on Sunday night launched airstrikes on the terror group’s de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria.
Obama on Monday underscored that the wave of terror attacks in Paris and the fight against ISIS necessitate that the two nations work more closely together to share intelligence — efforts that are currently underway.
“Paris is not alone,” Obama said, highlighting attacks in Beirut, Turkey and Iraq.
He pushed back against the assertion that his administration’s policy in Syria is problem-plagued.
“We play into the ISIL narrative when we act as if they are a state and we use routine tactics used to fight a state that is not a state,” Obama said using the alternative name for the terrorist group. “That’s not what is going on here. These are killers with fantasies of glory.”
Last month, the White House announced that the U.S. will send a small number of U.S. special operations forces into Syria as part of a strategy shift in Syria. Obama and his administration have come under mounting pressure amid signs the anti-ISIS coalition has stalled or at least failed to turn the tide against the militants — including the recent Pentagon decision to abandon a failed program to train and equip Syrian rebels.
However, senior defense officials tell NBC News there are no active plans to put U.S. ground troops into Iraq and or Syria in the war against ISIS. In addition the US military, including Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford and the past chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey have made no recommendations to the president to launch a ground war and, according, to one senior defense official there is no inclination among military leadership to do so.
The president also pushed back against calls to reject Syrian refugees. Earlier this year the Obama administration said the U.S. would take in at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year as European nations grapple with the surge of thousands of people from war-torn regions in the Middle East and Africa.
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Over the weekend the governors of several states said they would work to bar Syrian refugees from entering their states.
“Slamming the doors in their faces would be a betrayal of our values,” Obama said. Syrian “refugees are the victims of terrorism.”
“The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism … they are parents, they are children, they are orphans,” Obama said. “It is very 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.”
The president stressed that the Muslim community has an obligation to work to counter anti-Western sentiment and that Christians and those from other faiths should avoid stereotyping Muslims.
Americans “don’t have a religious test to our compassion,” the president said. “The values we are fighting against ISIL for is that we don’t discriminate against people because of their faith.”
This story originally appeared on NBCNews.com