The Cable

Days After Paris Attacks, Obama Cites Progress in the Fight Against the Islamic State

President Obama calls on other nations to do more to fight the Islamic State.

ANTALYA, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 16:  U.S President Barack Obama speaks to the media during his closing press conference on day two of the G20 Turkey Leaders Summit on November 16, 2015 in Antalya, Turkey. World leaders will use the summit to discuss issues including, climate change, the global economy, the refugee crisis and terrorism. The two day summit takes place in the wake of the massive terrorist attack in Paris which killed more than 120 people.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
ANTALYA, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 16: U.S President Barack Obama speaks to the media during his closing press conference on day two of the G20 Turkey Leaders Summit on November 16, 2015 in Antalya, Turkey. World leaders will use the summit to discuss issues including, climate change, the global economy, the refugee crisis and terrorism. The two day summit takes place in the wake of the massive terrorist attack in Paris which killed more than 120 people. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Days after a series of attacks in Paris claimed the lives of at least 129 people, President Barack Obama insisted to world leaders that progress was being made against the terror group that has overtaken large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

“The terrible events in Paris were obviously a terrible and sickening setback,” Obama said at a G-20 meeting in Turkey. “Even as we grieve with our French friends, however, we can’t lose sight that there has been progress being made.”

Minutes later, Obama added: “So, in short, both in Iraq and Syria, ISIL controls less territory than it did before.” He was referring to an alternative acronym for the Islamic State, which he called the “face of evil.”

Even so, the president ruled out sending U.S. ground troops to fight against the group, saying doing so would be a “mistake.” He said the United States must find partners on the battlefield to advance against the Islamic State, and noted that U.S. special forces are on the ground to help coordinate American airstrikes — 8,000 of which have been launched to date.

Obama’s comments came as French President François Hollande said the attacks on Paris were “planned in Syria, organized in Belgium and perpetrated on our soil with French complicity.” As Hollande spoke, a manhunt continued in France and Belgium for Brussels-born Salah Abdeslam, 26, who is thought to be one the attackers.

Obama called on other nations to “step up” with more resources against the Islamic State “if we want this progress to be sustained.” He downplayed reports that intelligence officials had advance warning of a looming onslaught. “There were no specific mentions of this particular attack that would give us a sense of something that we need — that we could provide French authorities, for example, or act on ourselves.”

The president also dismissed as “shameful” comments from GOP presidential hopeful and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has called for Syrian refugees to be screened by religion for relocation, and that U.S. assistance should focus on Christians.

“That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion,” Obama said. He added: “I had a lot of disagreements with George W. Bush on policy, but I was very proud after 9/11 when he was adamant and clear about the fact that this is not a war on Islam.”

Photo credit: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

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