President Obama dispatched his defense secretary to Iraq on Monday to review the ongoing fight against ISIS — and insisted coalition forces were hitting the murderous militants “harder than ever.”
“ISIS leaders cannot hide, and our message to them is simple: you are next,” Obama said, using the government’s acronym for ISIS. “Since this summer, ISIL has not had a single successful major offensive operation on the ground in either Syria or Iraq.”
Obama said they are also targeting ISIS’ headquarters in Raqqa and the outfit’s social media operations.
“As we squeeze its heart, we’ll make it harder for ISIL to see its propaganda to the world,” he said.
But while Obama listed top ISIS thugs who have been killed and insisted they were taking out the group’s leaders “one by one,” he unveiled no new strategy solutions for eradicating ISIS during an 8-minute address at the Pentagon.
“This fight continues to be difficult,” Obama said, flanked by Defense Secretary Ash Carter and top military leaders.
“We are hitting ISIL harder than ever,” Obama said using an alternative name for the terrorist group. Obama, who was flanked by top military leaders, described the increased number of airstrikes, reclaimed territory and defeated ISIS leaders.
Over at the White House, spokesman John Earnest insisted the fight against ISIS is gaining “momentum” and noted the coalition has launched more strikes against the group in November than in any previous month of the campaign.
“The president is not going to be satisfied until ISIL is degraded and ultimately destroyed,” he said.
Obama spoke to the nation after he and Vice President Biden received an update on the anti-ISIS effort from military brass. It was the first such huddle since July 6 - and came after Obama has taken months of flak from Republicans for refusing to take a more muscular approach to dealing with ISIS.
The president, who was elected on a promise to extricate the U.S. from the deeply unpopular war in Iraq that his GOP critics wholeheartedly supported, had been reluctant to send American ground forces in to battle the head-chopping fanatics.
But earlier this month, Carter announced that the U.S. would deploy 100 to 150 special operations forces that would conduct ground combat raids against ISIS targets in both Syria and Iraq.
Then, in only his third address to the nation from the Oval Office, Obama tried to reassure Americans unnerved by the San Bernardino slaughter that the U.S. had a handle on the “evolving” threat of terrorism and vowed to destroy ISIS.
But once again, Obama cautioned against a “costly ground war” saying it would serve only as a recruitment tool for ISIS and result in more American deaths.
Predictably, Obama’s speech was panned by Donald Trump and the other Republicans running for president. But even some Obama supporters criticized the address saying he offered no new solutions.
This story originally appeared on NBCNews.com