Middle East

Obama's NBC interview : Key excerpts

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Image caption Barack Obama also discussed strategies for dealing with IS at the Nato summit in Wales

US President Barack Obama is to set out his "game plan" against Islamic State (IS) militants in a speech on Wednesday, he told NBC's Meet the Press.

Below are the key excerpts from the interview with Chuck Todd.

Q: Are you preparing the country to go back to war?

A: I'm preparing the country to make sure that we deal with a threat from ISIL [as IS is also known]. Keep in mind that this is something that we know how to do. We've been dealing with terrorist threats for quite some time.

This administration has systematically dismantled al-Qaeda in the FATA [Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas]. We just yesterday announced the fact that we had taken out the top leader of al-Shabab - the terrorist organisation in Somalia.

ISIL poses a broader threat because of its territorial ambitions in Iraq and Syria. But the good news coming back from the most recent Nato meeting is the entire international community understands that this is something that has to be dealt with.

So what I have done over the last several months is, first and foremost, make sure that we got eyes on the problem, that we shifted resources, intelligence, reconnaissance. We did an assessment on the ground.

The second step was to make sure that we protected American personnel, our embassies, our consulates. That included taking air strikes to ensure that towns like Irbil were not overrun, critical infrastructure, like the Mosul Dam was protected, and that we were able to engage in key humanitarian assistance programmes that have saved thousands of lives.

The next phase is now to start going on some offence. We have to get an Iraqi government in place. And I'm optimistic that next week we should be able to get that done. And I will then meet with congressional leaders on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, I'll make a speech and describe what our game plan's going to be going forward.

But this is not going to be an announcement about US ground troops. This is not the equivalent of the Iraq war.

What this is is similar to the kinds of counterterrorism campaigns that we've been engaging in consistently over the last five, six, seven years. And the good news is that because of American leadership we have, I believe, a broad-based coalition internationally and regionally to be able to deal with the problem.

Q: What are you asking of the American people on Wednesday?..

A: ...I just want the American people to understand the nature of the threat and how we're going to deal with it and to have confidence that we'll be able to deal with it.

Q: You realise you're giving that speech the day before the 13th anniversary of 9/11?

A: But right. And I want everybody to understand that we have not seen any immediate intelligence about threats to the homeland from ISIL. That's not what this is about.

What it's about is an organisation that, if allowed to control significant amounts of territory, to amass more resources, more arms to attract more foreign fighters, including from areas like Europe, who have Europeans who have visas and then can travel to the United States unimpeded, that over time, that can be a serious threat to the homeland.

In in the more immediate term, it's a threat to friends, partners in the region and is causing all kinds of hardship. And we've seen the savagery not just in terms of how they dealt with the two Americans that had been taken hostage but the killing of thousands of innocents in Iraq, thousands of innocents in Syria, the kidnapping of women, the complete disruption of entire villages.

So what I'm going to be asking the American people to understand is, number one, this is a serious threat. Number two, we have the capacity to deal with it...

...And what I want people to understand, though, is that over the course of months, we are going to be able to not just blunt the momentum of ISIL. We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We're going to shrink the territory that they control. And ultimately we're going to defeat them.

Q: What about Syria?

...And so the strategy both for Iraq and for Syria is that we will hunt down ISIL members and assets wherever they are. I will reserve the right to always protect the American people and go after folks who are trying to hurt us wherever they are.

But in terms of controlling territory, we're going to have to develop a moderate Sunni opposition that can control territory and that we can work with. The notion that the United States should be putting boots on the ground, I think would be a profound mistake...

Image caption Key Iraqi dams taken or at risk of being taken by Islamic State

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