Obama warns of long haul as air strikes in Syria begin

23 September 2014

As the US launched air strikes for the first time in Syria, President Barack Obama today warned that this opens a challenging new military front in the Middle East that could entangle the US for some time, but insisted that "this is not America's fight alone."

Obama, speaking at the White House before flying to New York for three days of diplomacy, underscored the support from five Arab allies for the Syria offensive against the militant group Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL.

"The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not American's fight alone," Obama said. "Above all, the people and governments of the Middle East are rejecting ISIL, and standing up for the peace and security that the people of the region and the world deserve."

He said he plans to use meetings this week during the United Nations General Assembly to solidify an international coalition for combating Islamic State.

"The overall effort will take time," he said. "There will be challenges ahead, but we're going to do what's necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group, for the security of the country and the region and for the entire world."

Making clear the airstrikes were his call, Obama said "on my orders" they commenced Monday night against Islamic State strongholds in Syria and against the anti-Western group Khorasan, which US officials said is plotting an imminent attack against the West.

Obama said five Arab countries - Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia - helped the US carry out the airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria.

"America's proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these nations on behalf of our common security," Obama said.

US military officials said no Arab nations took part in the airstrikes against Khorasan forces.

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