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President Obama to speak to nation on countering Islamic State

President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference at the NATO summit at Celtic Manor, Newport, Wales, Sept. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference at the NATO summit at Celtic Manor, Newport, Wales, Sept. 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) AP

President Barack Obama will speak to the nation Wednesday night, laying out the administration’s strategy for confronting “and ultimately destroying” the militant Islamic State.

Obama will speak at 9 p.m. EDT from the State Floor at the White House, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. He will “discuss with the American people the threat posed by ISIL and to lay out the United States’ strategy for degrading and ultimately destroying the terrorist group,” Earnest said.

The rare prime time speech comes in the wake of the group’s slaying of two American journalists and as Obama comes under increasing pressure to outline a strategy for battling the militants. He will meet today with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Boehner, who said he has asked for a strategy since January when the group came across the border into western Iraq, said he’d hoping for a plan “that goes after ISIS, and destroys them.”

The U.S. has conducted nearly 150 airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq, but the administration has been reluctant to expand the operation into neighboring Syria.

Obama, vice president Biden and other administration officials held a private dinner Monday night with a group of foreign policy experts, including former administration officials from Republican and Democratic administrations and think tank experts, including former Clinton administration National Security Advisor Sandy Berger and Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass, a former director of policy planning for the Department of State and principal adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Obama pledged in an interview on Sunday to wipe out the group: “Wat 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,” he said on Meet the Press. “We’re going to shrink the territory that they control. And ultimately we’re going to defeat ‘em.”

Obama’s last prime time speech was a year ago when he asked Congress to postpone a vote on airstrikes against Syria to allow time to explore a Russian proposal to get Syria to turn over its chemical weapons to international control.

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