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ISIS Threat: Obama's Remarks Over the Past Year Show Evolution

Take a look at how the president’s views on ISIS have dramatically changed over the past year.

President Barack Obama formally asked Congress on Wednesday for authorization to use military force to fight ISIS. The proposal limits engagement to three years and prohibits “enduring offensive ground forces.”

Here’s a look at how the president’s language on ISIS has evolved over the past year.

Jan. 27, 2014

In an interview with The New Yorker, Obama makes the point that not every terror group rises to the level of al Qaeda.

“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.”

June 13, 2014

Obama describes the threat in remarks on the White House South Lawn. ISIS is also known as the Islamic State or ISIL.

Over the last several days, we’ve seen significant gains made by ISIL, a terrorist organization that operates in both Iraq and in Syria. In the face of a terrorist offensive, Iraqi security forces have proven unable to defend a number of cities, which has allowed the terrorists to overrun a part of Iraq’s territory. And this poses a danger to Iraq and its people. And given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well.

He also describes the limits of American force.

And obviously, our troops and the American people and the American taxpayers made huge investments and sacrifices in order to give Iraqis the opportunity to chart a better course, a better destiny. But ultimately, they're going to have to seize it. As I said before, we are not going to be able to do it for them. And given the very difficult history that we’ve seen in Iraq, I think that any objective observer would recognize that in the absence of accommodation among the various factions inside of Iraq, various military actions by the United States, by any outside nation, are not going to solve those problems over the long term and not going to deliver the kind of stability that we need.

June 19, 2014

At a White House press conference, Obama says that he is prepared to send up to 300 American military advisers to train, advise and help Iraqi security forces.

American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well.

Aug. 7, 2014

In a speech in the State Dining Room, Obama announces airstrikes to fight ISIS in Iraq, partly to help free a group of minority Yazidi cornered on a mountain.

I’ve, therefore, authorized targeted airstrikes, if necessary, to help forces in Iraq as they fight to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect the civilians trapped there. Already, American aircraft have begun conducting humanitarian airdrops of food and water to help these desperate men, women and children survive. Earlier this week, one Iraqi in the area cried to the world, “There is no one coming to help.” Well, today, America is coming to help. We’re also consulting with other countries — and the United Nations — who have called for action to address this humanitarian crisis.

He again tries to assure Americans about the commitment of American forces.

I know that many of you are rightly concerned about any American military action in Iraq, even limited strikes like these. I understand that. I ran for this office in part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home, and that’s what we’ve done. As commander-in-chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq. And so even as we support Iraqis as they take the fight to these terrorists, American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq. The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.

Sept. 10, 2014

In a primetime address from White House, Obama readies the nation for an expansion of the campaign into Syria. He rules out the use of combat forces.

I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground.

Feb. 11, 2015

Obama sends Congress a formal request for authorization to fight ISIS with military force. The proposal limits American engagement to three years and rules out “enduring offensive ground forces.” In an accompanying letter, he explains his request.

My Administration’s draft AUMF would not authorize long-term, large-scale ground combat operations like those our Nation conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan. Local forces, rather than U.S. military forces, should be deployed to conduct such operations. The authorization I propose would provide the flexibility to conduct ground combat operations in other, more limited circumstances, such as rescue operations involving U.S. or coalition personnel or the use of special operations forces to take military action against ISIL leadership.