WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama said Monday the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State is hitting the group “harder than ever,” while reiterating the U.S. call for other nations to contribute more to the effort.
As part of his push for additional resources from coalition countries, Mr. Obama said he is sending Defense Secretary Ash Carter to the Middle East this week to try to gain new commitments from leaders in the region.
”Progress needs to come faster” in the Islamic State fight, Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Obama’s remarks followed more than 90-minutes of meetings at the Pentagon with nearly three dozen defense officials and foreign-policy advisers.
Mr. Carter leaves Monday for Turkey and for other stops in the Middle East. The U.S. wants Turkey in particular to seal some 60-miles of its border with Syria to stop Islamic State fighters from moving in and out of the country.
His trip coincides with Secretary of State John Kerry’s arrival in Moscow this week to try to keep on track diplomatic negotiations on a political resolution to the Syrian conflict, which U.S. officials maintain would go a long way to blunting the threat posed by the extremist group.
Mr. Obama in remarks at the Pentagon sized up progress in the fight, saying the U.S.-led coalition had prevented Islamic State from gaining an offensive victory since the summer, had taken back sizable tracts of land, and killed many extremist leaders in coordinated airstrikes. Those strikes, Mr. Obama said, should send a message to Islamic State leaders: “You are next.”
Mr. Obama said Islamic State had lost about 40% of the populated areas it once controlled in Iraq. “And it will lose more,” he said.
But he said progress must come more quickly.
“No one knows that more than the countless Syrians and Iraqis living every day under ISIL’s terror as well as the families in San Bernardino and Paris and elsewhere that are grieving the loss of their loved ones,” Mr. Obama said.
He said that the U.S., as well as allies France, Germany, Australia and the United Kingdom, have stepped up efforts against Islamic State and that others, particularly in the Middle East, also must do more.
Mr. Obama spoke for about eight minutes and took no questions. Standing behind him as he spoke were Vice President Joe Biden; Mr. Carter; the commander of the U.S. forces in the Middle East, Gen. Lloyd Austin; the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joe Dunford; the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Paul Selva; and the head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, Gen. Joseph Votel.