By Tamas Mondovics
Close to a thousand Central Command troops gathered to welcome their Commander-in-Chief, President Barack Obama last month during his two-day visit to the U.S. Central Command in Tampa.
Prior to addressing the crowd at MacDill Air Force Base, the President met with his top military commanders to confirm his plans to attack the Islamic State, including the prospect of airstrikes in Syria.
The visit to Centcom comes a week after Obama’s much-anticipated speech to the nation where he discussed his plan, which also included providing assistance to Iraqi and Syrian forces battling ISIS also known as ISIL.
Following a few words of introduction by the head of Centcom, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin III, Obama specifically emphasized his earlier statement that the U.S. counter-terrorism campaign against Islamic State militants will achieve its purpose without U.S. military forces on the ground.
“I will not commit you to fight another ground war, as we did in Iraq,” Obama said. “We will advise and assist our military partners, but they will have to fight for themselves. We cannot do for Iraqis what they have to do for themselves.”
The Central Command, based at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, covers some nearly two dozen countries in the Middle East and Central and South Asia
By the time of Obama’s visit to Tampa, Centcom had ordered nearly 160 airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq. The military campaign against ISIS began Friday, August 8.
While the airstrikes have been limited to taking out IS positions that have posed a threat to U.S. and Iraqi personnel and civilians, Obama’s current plans reportedly includes more offensive attacks, in both Iraq and in Syria, which will likely become clearer as the campaign progresses.
Before finishing his speech, Obama made sure his audience, which he called a “9/11 generation of heroes,” received the recognition he believed was necessary.
“Our challenges and threats against us are not over, but you have done everything we have asked of you,” he said. “Because of you, our homeland is secure.”
While acknowledging the threats, the President’s strong “degrade and destroy” message to ISIS and anyone threatening the country also remained unchanged. “If you threaten America, there is no safe haven for you,” Obama said. “We will find you.”
During the half-hour speech, Obama shared the stage with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and was also accompanied by his national security adviser Susan Rice.
The President’s Tampa stop followed his visits to Atlanta where he met with officials at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, and received a briefing on the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters that the President wanted to thank the doctors, scientists and health care workers who are helping respond to the Ebola outbreak.
During a press conference prior to his visit to the CDC, Obama was clear on the sense of urgency necessary to control the disease.
“If the Ebola outbreak does not stop now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of affected by the disease,” Obama said.
For more information about MacDill Air Force Base, visit www.macdill.af.mil.