WASHINGTON, March 14, 2016 —
All aspects of government have a responsibility to keep America safe and secure, and diplomacy -- like military power -- has a role to play in the fight against terror, President Barack Obama said at the State Department here today.
The president spoke at the department’s chiefs of mission conference. Chiefs of mission are the highest-ranking U.S. representatives in American embassies.
The president told the chiefs that they have a role to play in the effort against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. “We’re going to have to continue to strengthen our global coalition against ISIL, whether it’s the air campaign, support for local partners, cutting off ISIL financing, preventing the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, working with partners to counter ISIL’s bankrupt, nihilistic ideology,” the president said.
He said diplomacy is crucial because it is the only way the Syrian civil war is going to end. A peace settlement in Syria will go a long way to ending the tyranny of ISIL in the self-proclaimed caliphate, he added.
Diplomacy will be needed to counter ISIL and al-Qaida in other countries where the groups operate, the president said, noting that the attack in Ivory Coast over the weekend is just the latest example of the terror groups’ reach. “These countries are battling terrorism; they need our help,” Obama said. “And we’re going to have to keep working with allies and partners to stabilize Libya and Yemen.”
The president also re-emphasized his determination to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba. “We have to keep living up to our values and move ahead on our plan, including safely transferring detainees to finally close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay,” he said. “We are not going to stop making the effort to do that.”
The United States must work with other countries on many other aspects contributing to peace, Obama said. He asked the diplomats to help mobilize the world “to meet shared challenges and that includes strengthening international rules and norms that undergird peace and security.”
Ensuing Iran meets its commitments under the nuclear deal and making sure nations enforce sanctions on North Korea are just two of the issues they must confront, he said.
“In Europe, with our NATO allies, we’re continuing to bolster our common defenses,” the president said. “We are continuing to push to make sure that the Minsk agreement is upheld and that we are supporting Ukraine’s right to self-determination.”
The United States needs to lead the way in response to transnational threats such as the threat posed by cyberattacks, Obama said. Another example, he added, is the U.S. effort against Ebola virus last year, where U.S. diplomatic, military and health officials combined with friends and allies to confront the disease in West Africa.
The United States must move forward with its rebalance to the Pacific region, Obama said, and must also work with nations to ensure the stability of the crossroads that is the South China Sea.
The president said no other country comes close to the capabilities and effectiveness of the U.S. military, but that force must work hand-in-hand with diplomats.