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Obama says destroying IS his ‘top priority’

Obama not meeting Philippine President

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama said Tuesday that destroying the militant Islamic State (IS) group remains his “top priority” at a time when the militant group continues to lose ground in Iraq and Syria.

“We continue to take on their leadership, their financial networks, their infrastructure,” Obama said at a meeting with senior military officials in the White House.

“We are going to squeeze them and we will defeat them.”

“As we’ve seen from Turkey to Belgium, ISIL still has the ability to launch serious terrorist attacks,” he added, using another term for IS.

Coalition forces must maintain pressure on the insurgents using diplomacy and intelligence as well as military operations, coordinating operations between various branches of government, he said.

“We can no longer tolerate the kinds of positioning that is enabled by them having headquarters in Raqqa and in Mosul,” he said of cities in Syria and Iraq.

“Destroying ISIL continues to be my top priority.”

Obama spoke next to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, General Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and combatant commanders.

Carter on Tuesday proposed changes to the military that would streamline its various forces of some 1.3 million soldiers and boost their ability to respond quickly by reviewing the current “top heavy” structure set out in the 30-year-old Goldwater-Nichols Act, which critics say is outdated.

The fight against IS has shown that the military’s various commands and special forces should better coordinate their efforts, he said.

“We intend to be more efficient by integrating functions like logistics, intelligence and plans,” he said.

The US-led coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria conducted an airstrike in the Iraqi city of Mosul that destroyed the former Turkish consulate, an official said Tuesday.

Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said Monday’s strike was carried out with the full cooperation of the Turkish government.

“ISIL repurposed the compound and used it as a headquarters for senior ISIL leaders, in addition to a bed-down location and weapons storage facility,” he said, using an acronym for the IS group.

“That compound has now been destroyed by coalition aircraft.”

IS seized the key city of Mosul in June 2014 as they overran vast regions in northern and north-central Iraq, as well as in Syria.

Mosul, in northern Iraq, lies some 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of the Kurdish capital Arbil.

The city holds special significance for IS as the location where its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed his “caliphate” straddling Iraq and Syria.

Washington has led an international coalition staging airstrikes against IS in Syria and Iraq since September 2014, parallel to operations by the Syrian government and its ally Russia.

The Syrian army and its allies on Monday retook Syria’s central town of al-Qaryatain, one of the IS group’s last strongholds in the region.

The operation 75 miles southwest of Palmyra helped secure the government’s retaking of that ancient city last week after IS held it for 10 months, destroying important archaeological sites and executing 280 people.


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