President Barack Obama today discussed a series of pressing issues affecting U.S. security, including the battle against Sunni terrorists in the Middle East as well as U.S. efforts to stop the spread of Ebola in Africa during a meeting at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the military’s top commanders.
“I think at a time when there’s so much turbulence in the world, never during my presidency has it become more apparent how good our military is,” Obama said after holding what he called a “periodic check-in” with Pentagon leaders, including the commanders of the combatant commands.
Obama called the U.S.-led effort to degrade and destroy Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Iraq and Syria a difficult mission that will take time.
“The good news is, there is a broad-based consensus not just in the region but among nations of the world that ISIL is a threat to world peace, security and order, that their barbaric behavior has to be dealt with,” and he said he is confident progress in the fight against the group which holds a large swathes of territory spanning the Iraq-Syria border will continue.
Obama said discussions also included the U.S. effort to stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa. As many 4,000 U.S. military personnel are expected to be deployed in Liberia as part of Operation United Assistance, the military mission supporting U.S. and international efforts to stop the spread of a virus that has already killed more than 3,300 people across the region.
“Our military is essentially building an infrastructure that does not exist in order to facilitate the transport of personnel and equipment and supplies to deal with this deadly epidemic,” he said, and emphasized that the safety of U.S. military personnel remains his top priority.
Obama said today’s discussion also included the defense budget, hard hit by cuts mandated by the budget sequester which is set to return in 2016 if current law is not changed, cuts he described as “draconian.” At the same time, he said the military has worked to make itself “leaner, meaner, more effective, more tailored to the particular challenges that we’re going to face in the 21st century.”