Obama to announce ISIS strategy during prime time programming

David Jackson, USA TODAY

President Obama will speak in prime time Wednesday on plans to combat the terrorist threat from the jihadist group known as the Islamic State, the White House said Tuesday.

Obama will address the nation from the White House at 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday "to lay out the United States' strategy for degrading and ultimately destroying the terrorist group."

The White House set the speech schedule hours before Obama sits down with congressional leaders from both parties to discuss his counter-terrorism strategy.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama will use the prime time address to discuss "the progress we've made" against insurgents, including ongoing airstrikes in Iraq and formation of a new national government in Baghdad.

The speech will focus on the "next phase," Earnest said, including help to the Iraq military and to moderate forces in Syria so that they can "take the fight" to the insurgents. The spokesman said the president will also discuss help from other countries in the battle against the the Islamic State, also known as ISIL and ISIS.

The plan is expected to involve an expansion of the airstrikes in Iraq that began in August. Obama is also likely to discuss a coalition of allies that has been assembled in opposition to the Islamic State, and to brace Americans for the possibility that the battle could take years.

Obama told NBC's Meet the Press over the weekend that he will not send ground troops into combat, and that this strategy will not be the equivalent of the Iraq War launched in 2003.

This plan "is similar to the kinds of counter-terrorism campaigns that we've been engaging in consistently over the last five, six, seven years," Obama said.

He also said: "The next phase is now to start going on some offense."

The guest list for Tuesday's meeting includes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

McConnell, a critic of Obama's foreign policy, said Obama "needs to identify military objectives, and explain how those ends will be accomplished."

If the president "believes he lacks authority to execute such a strategy, he needs to explain to the Congress how additional authority for the use of force will protect America," McConnell said.

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