President Barack Obama on Tuesday vowed justice for slain American journalist James Foley, but said again that he will not put American troops on the ground in Iraq to battle the Islamic State militants who last week threatened to kill a second U.S. hostage after beheading Foley.
Pledging at the American Legion Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina to do right by America’s veterans following reports of veterans being denied care at VA facilities, Obama said the U.S. “would continue to take direct action where needed to protect our people and defend our homeland.
“Our message to anyone who harms our people is simple: America does not forget, our reach is long," he said. "We are patient. Justice will be done. We have proved time and time again we will do what's necessary to capture those who harm Americans, to go after those who harm Americans."
He warned that "rooting out a cancer like ISIL won't be easy, and it won't be quick."
But he pledged that U.S. intervention wouldn’t include troops on the ground, saying "Let me say it again, American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq. We'll not allow the United States to be dragged back into another ground war in Iraq.”
His remarks came as news reports suggested that Obama had authorized surveillance flights over Syria in preparation for potential air strikes against the Islamic State in Syria. The U.S. has already waged nearly 100 air strikes in Iraq, which Obama said are aimed at protecting U.S. diplomats and military advisers there.
“The answer is not to send in large-scale military deployments that overstretch our military and lead to us occupying countries for a long period of time and end up feeding extremism,” Obama said. “Rather our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader strategy to protect our people and support our partners to take the fight to ISIL.”
He said the U.S. is providing more military assistance to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces in Iraq, along with the moderate opposition in Syria.
The Syrian government has warned the United States against launching unilateral attacks against the Islamic State extremist group on its territory, but White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the U.S. has "not recognized" Bashar Assad as the leader in Syria, and "there are no plans to change that policy and there are no plans to coordinate with the Assad regime."