President Barack Obama makes a statement on the situation in Iraq June 12, 2014 on the south lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C.
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President Obama: Terrorists ‘gaining strength’ in Syria and Iraq

The United States faces serious threat from a new generation of terrorists being trained in Syria and Iraq, the president told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in an interview aired Sunday on “This Week.”

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“We have seen Europeans who are sympathetic to their cause traveling into Syria and now may travel into Iraq, getting battle-hardened,” Obama said. “Then they come back. They’ve got European passports. They don’t need a visa to get into the United States.”

Obama underscored that the United States has “been under serious threat” for the entirety of his presidency, and that the terrorist threat predates the attacks of September 11, 2001. But he conceded that “those who embrace this ideology” are now gaining strength in some places.

“Now, we are spending a lot of time, and we have been for years, making sure we are improving intelligence to respond to that,” Obama said. “We have to improve our surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence there. Special Forces are going to have a role. And there are going to be times where we take strikes against organizations that could do us harm.”

Earlier this month, the president announced he would be sending up to 300 military advisers to Iraq in response to the Sunni extremists threatening government forces loyal to embattled Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. The first contingent of those advisers arrived in Iraq on Tuesday.

Those American forces are considered insufficient by some of Obama’s Republican opponents. Rep. Peter King of New York, also on “This Week,” told Stephanopoulos that the president needs to be “really aggressive” in countering the emergent terrorist threat in destabilized regions of the Middle East.

“Any of these people can come back to the United States and carry out the type of attack that they’ve been trained on in Syria,” King said.

Iraq and Syria

President Obama: Terrorists 'gaining strength' in Syria and Iraq