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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Obama Updates on ISIS Strategy at Pentagon. Aired 3:54-4:30p ET

Aired July 6, 2015 - 15:54   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, THE LEAD: Good afternoon, welcome to "the LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper.

You're about to look at some live pictures out of the Pentagon, where any second President Obama is going to step behind that podium, flanked by his top military commanders, and debrief the press. We're expecting him to appear with General Lloyd Austin, who is commander of central command or CENTCOM, with General David Rodriguez who is head of the Africa Command or AFRICOM and General Joe Gotell who is commander of special operations. The president making this relatively were track across the (INAUDIBLE) to the Pentagon to provide an update on the coalition campaign against the terrorist group, ISIS. ISIS, the relentless group that released two gruesome execution videos over the weekend.

Sources telling CNN that the Obama administration is more or less going to announce that the world can expect more of the same that they have been offering in this campaign. Let's getting right to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon now.

Barbara, the president's Pentagon statement which we are expecting any minute now comes after the U.S.-led coalition spent independence day bombing ISIS targets what the administration called its most sustained set of airstrikes to date against the terrorist group. Is there any indication why the U.S. ramped up the number of airstrikes over the weekend?

[15:55:23] BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You know, this is a really interesting part of Syria where this happened, Jake, northern Syria, the town of Raqqa. That is ISIS' self-declared capital. The Kurds, who are obviously in strong opposition to ISIS, they're less than 50 miles north of the city. They've been pushing towards Raqqa, and that has been giving them the ability to pick up some targets for the U.S. to strike. So we saw really unprecedented 18 airstrikes just on July 4th alone, over a period of hours against several targets in Raqqa. ISIS controlled bridges, about 16 bridges taken out. A number of other targets in what the video shows of is very calculated areas in Raqqa. Something the U.S. have done before.

The question now is how will ISIS react to all of this? The U.S. is hoping at least that the pressure from the Kurds, the pressure from these airstrikes lead to ISIS leadership to begin moving around, at least go on the run a little bit. Reposition men, materiel, equipment, weapons, and if ISIS does start to do that, the hope is they can spot even more targets.

But make no mistake, what we are about to see from the president is an optic. We don't, at this point, expect any major announcements, but he is here at the Pentagon, his commanders, including the joint chiefs, the generals that you mentioned, the secretary of defense Ash Carter, they will stand behind him, a show of solidarity. The president expected to say the campaign is going well, always expected to say it's going to take a long time. But if these airstrikes do begin to have some effect, we could begin to see them able possibly to target more ISIS leadership in the coming days and weeks - Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr, at the pentagon. Stay right there. We'll come back to you after the president speaks.

I want to talk about all of this with retired U.S. army brigadier general Mark Kimmit who just return from Baghdad. We are also joined by former California Congresswoman Jane Harman. She now serves as the president and CEO of the Wilson center, and also sits on the director of the national intelligence senior advisory group and is formerly a member of the CIA external advisory board.

General, let me start with you if I may, the president says that the U.S. does not need to alter its strategy, that if the military stays the course, trains more Iraqi troops, ISIS will be a beaten. You just returned from Iraq. Is that correct?

BRIGADIER GEN. MARK KIMMIT, (RET.) U.S. ARMY: Well, I think we have to talk differently about Iraq and Syria. Certainly we have the capability to defeat ISIS inside of Iraq after a period of time, probably longer than we would like, but it is something that we can do in the future.

TAPPER: Can you give us an idea of what kind of time you are talking?

KIMMIT: I don't think we are talking days and months. I think we are talking probably years to complete reply push ISIS outside of Iraq, done by the Iraqi security forces themselves. Syria is a totally different situation.

TAPPER: What if and it differentiate, if you would, is defeating ISIS in Syria possible in the near term as well?

KIMMIT: I don't think so. We don't have the capability on the ground. There is no central organization that it is fighting against ISIS. We have a -- we have on the one side, the Assad regime fighting them. On the other side, some of the, quote, "moderate Syrian elements," but they are finding sanctuary and safe haven inside of Syria. And they are not under threat from American airstrikes, nor are they under threat from either the Assad regime or al- Nusra and its affiliates.

TAPPER: Congresswoman, we went through this entire weekend, thankfully with no incidents at the U.S. homeland, but obviously, the department of homeland security, the FBI, on high alert, worried about an ISIS inspired attack. And I've heard national security experts say under the problem in Iraq and Syria is taken care of, we're never going to have the problem when it comes to ISIS is-inspired extremists here in this country taking care of, is that right?

JANE HARMAN, DIRECTOR, WILSON CENTER: Well, ISIS is in or ISIL Levant, not just Iraq and Syria, is in more countries than just Iraq and Syria, question mark is Syria country anymore? But if it is 12 countries, which is the current list, that is pretty on list, the problem won't go away if ISIL is defeated in just these two countries.

But I would say it's more complicated. One, I don't think there is a military solution to this. We simply have to do better with social media and get ahead of these recruiters of foreign fighters and propagandists who are telling a story that isn't actually true, but that is leading more people to fight and to show great will in fighting. So that's one.

Number two, in Syria, and I agree with Mark that it is a harder problem. Our strategy has an internal conflict in it. We are for helping people in Syria training them to fight ISIL, but those same people also want to fight the government of Syria.

TAPPER: Right. They want to defeat Assad, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

HARMAN: No, no, don't defeat Assad. Just fight ISIL.

Well, that message is not persuading a lot of folks to sign up for our effort, which is why it's lagging behind. We're training fewer people than we have the capacity to train. These aerial bombing raids are increasing in number, but they're not in effectiveness.

And our strategy, I hope will be clarified by the president in a few minutes.

TAPPER: General, one thing that I heard from former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates when I interviewed him a few weeks ago, when it came to the campaign against ISIS, was that the rules of engagement for the U.S. need to change.

I believe what he was suggesting was that there are too many restrictions on when U.S. fighter pilots can drop bombs, and that is hurting the cause. Having just returned from Iraq, do you agree? Do the troops, the U.S. troops and the Iraqi troops agree?

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT (RET.), FORMER U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR PLANS AND STRATEGY: Well, I don't think that the American troops are chafing under the current rules of engagement.

But I think we have got to understand that it's a two-edged sword. We can loosen the collateral damage estimation when we attack some of the high-value targets. But the second- and third-order consequences of civilian casualties are so severe that I think that this administration would rather avoid the civilian casualties and pass on a high-value target, thinking that they might get it at a future time, without the consequences that would come about from excessive civilian casualties.

TAPPER: So, you agree with how it's being done right now?

KIMMITT: I think it's a balance that the commanders on the ground express their concerns to the secretary of defense. I don't know what that balance point is right now, but I didn't get a sense even from the commanders that I talked to that they necessarily felt that they were handcuffed in their operations.

TAPPER: Congresswoman, I want to ask you about the training of Iraqi troops, but let me just touch base with Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, if I can.

Barbara, what is the progress these days on the U.S. training of Iraqi troops?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's going very slowly, to say the least.

They have been trying to get the Iraqis to get into this training program. But at various points, there have been actually no Iraqis at certain bases to even train. And this has been a huge problem. So they're hoping at this point that they can get more of them to come in, but this goes to what both Jane and Mark are saying, the political will of the Iraqi government.

This is actually not a military problem. It's a political problem to a large extent with the government in Iraq, to get them to get their troops into the training program. We are seeing the U.S. also trying to reach out, very critical, to the Sunnis in Anbar province to the west, and get them into some sort of training effort, get them some additional weapons and some additional equipment, that too going very slowly.

The Sunnis obviously very skeptical of the U.S. staying power over the years in Iraq. They have a lot of skepticism. They are now seen as being absolutely key once again years later after that Sunni awakening in Anbar province during the initial years of the war.

The Sunnis are seen as key to getting the U.S. to get the Iraqis to get Anbar province back. And if you can't get Anbar back, you can't get move nor. You can't get to Mosul. You can't get to some of these other areas. It's got to be really solved to get this campaign moving forward -- Jake.

TAPPER: If you're just joining us, we're waiting for President Obama at any moment to visit the Pentagon and give remarks, an update, if you will, of the U.S. and coalition campaign against ISIS in Iraq and to a lesser degree in Syria.

I'm joined by General Mark Kimmitt and Congresswoman, former Congresswoman Jane Harman.

Congresswoman, if you would, the slow progress in training the Iraqi military, I think there are a lot of Americans watching right now who think, we have been training that military for more than a decade. What is the problem?

HARMAN: Well, the problem is that -- at least if we're talking about Iraq, those folks don't trust their own government to support them.

And the optic of at the moment Shia militia being encouraged by the so-called pluralist government of Iraq to go into Sunni neighborhoods in Anbar is a movie we saw before. And it almost failed until we really invested and they did in the Anbar awakening.

Then they were disappointed again. So I don't think this works until the Abadi government becomes more effective. Can it become more effective? And until we get assurances that there isn't going to be ethnic cleansing or anything like it by Shia going into Sunni neighborhoods. I was just going to make the point I made before, which is, I don't think there's a military solution here. It's a piece of a broader solution.

[16:05:05]

And I think we all agree with that. There has to be the diplomatic piece. There has to be the economic piece. And until we can get to a kind of, if you will, whole of government approach to this, and we're not even close, we're not going to get there.

And final comment. The president is at the Pentagon. I now serve on the -- or I have for a long time -- the Defense Policy Board. I used to be on the Director of National Intelligence Board. But Ash Carter has been...

TAPPER: The secretary of defense.

HARMAN: ... very courageous in speaking truth to power. He's the one who said that the Iraqis lack the will to fight. Hopefully, there's been progress since that comment, but it was candid, and I applaud him for speaking truth to power.

TAPPER: General, I want to get to you in a second, but let me just bring in former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente, who joins us as well.

And, Tim, we were talking just a second ago about, can the problem of feared ISIS terrorists in this country, ISIS-inspired terrorists in this country, which obviously had the entire law enforcement and national security apparatus on alert all weekend -- thankfully, nothing happened -- can those fears ever be put aside, at least when it comes to ISIS-inspired terrorists, would-be terrorists, until this problem is taken care of in Iraq and Syria? What do you think?

TIM CLEMENTE, FORMER FBI COUNTERTERRORISM AGENT: Well, I think the problem is that this is a disease, and the problem with a disease, it's communicable

But this disease is communicable via the Internet, via written communication, oral communication, telephone calls, anything. And so the fact that there's a winning team on the ground in Iraq and Syria is very inspirational for people that are looking for something to inspire them.

And those are the people that are unfortunately being inspired by ISIS, and so I think the congresswoman mentioned about getting into the social media game a little better. That's one of the things we have to do, but we also have to -- we have to be proactive and we have to work with the Muslim communities throughout the United States and around the world to make sure they're being proactive in their own communities, because some of these people are coming from there.

But now we're seeing -- "New York Times" had a story just last week about a young girl from the Northwest that was recruited by ISIS, 23- year-old girl that was a Christian. She was recruited online, because she was asking questions. We have to be preemptive, but we have to be very, very diligent as individuals and as family members and as co- workers to what's happening in this radicalization process.

TAPPER: We're waiting President Obama to come to the podium there at the Pentagon and give an update to the people of the United States on the campaign against ISIS. That should be happening in about one minute.

But before we go live to the Pentagon, General Kimmitt, you wanted to say something.

KIMMITT: Yes, I agree with the medical metaphor.

I think we have got a step back and understand that ISIS finds root in failed states. It doesn't find its strength in countries that have good control. It find sanctuary and safe haven in countries such as Syria with no state at all, and in Anbar province, it doesn't have the writ of the central government there. And it metastasizes in those locations.

So going back to what Congresswoman Harman said, this really is first and foremost a political problem. We have got to not only have a military surge, but we have to have a diplomatic surge. There needs to be as many diplomats out there trying to bring the Sunnis, the Shia and the Kurds to the table inside of Iraq to come to an accommodation that could be a prophylactic against the whole notion of ISIS taking root.

And we certainly need a diplomatic solution inside of Syria as well to end the lack of governance there that allows ISIL to take root.

HARMAN: But keep in mind that we have more failed and failing states than just Iraq and Syria, by the way.

KIMMITT: I agree.

HARMAN: Let's start with Yemen and Libya, among others.

And even in states with a strong government, or strong in a certain way -- think Egypt -- we have terror attacks going on. So, it's a hard problem. And just another comment about the U.S. They only have to be lucky once.

TAPPER: Right.

HARMAN: And we're not going to be right 100 percent of the time, which is still to applaud the amazingly competent efforts of the FBI and state and local law enforcement over the weekend and every day.

But then we have to add to this these neo-Nazi groups and white supremacy groups that are now doing the same thing, recruiting on the Web, and following these tactics. This playbook could be used by a lot of strange and deranged people inside our country. So, I just applaud, really applaud the FBI and local law enforcement.

CLEMENTE: Thank you.

I would also add, Jake, that we look at what happened in Kuwait City. I was there just a few weeks ago.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Car bomb?

CLEMENTE: Yes, well, a bomb in a mosque, in a Shiite mosque.

And we're seeing that even where there is not a destabilized government -- and I believe -- with the general completely that where there's destabilization, there's the rich soil for these groups to grow.

But the fact they can reach out and touch people in civilized, not just Third World cities, but in any place in the world, like, again in Paris, the fact that they can reach out and do that is where they're most effective in causing terror.

[16:10:11]

And the terror, I mean, if you're living in Iraq right now, you're living in a terror-filled country. But if you're living in Paris right now, you don't have that expectation. And we unfortunately -- sorry.

TAPPER: Let met cut you off.

CLEMENTE: Sure.

TAPPER: I'm sorry.

Just, I'm seeing a lot of fancy medals and ribbons.

Here's President Obama and his military commanders.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All set?

Good afternoon, everybody.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend, especially our men and women in uniform. And this Fourth of July, we were honored to once again welcome some of our incredible troops and their families to share Fourth of July and fireworks at the White House. And it was another chance for us on behalf of the American people to express our gratitude for their extraordinary service around the world every single day. And that includes the work that brings me here today, our mission to

degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group ISIL.

This is a cause, a coalition that's united countries across the globe, some 60 nations, including Arab partners. Our comprehensive strategy against ISIL is harnessing all elements of American power across our government, military, intelligence, diplomatic, economic, development and, perhaps most importantly, the power of our values.

Last month, I ordered additional actions in support of our strategy. I just met with my national security team as part of our regular effort to assess our efforts, what's working and what we can do better.

Secretary Carter, Chairman Dempsey, I want to thank you and your team for welcoming us and your leadership, including General Austin, who's leading the military campaign.

And I want so summarize briefly where we stand.

I want to start by repeating what I have said since the beginning. This will not be quick. This is a long-term campaign. ISIL is opportunistic and it is nimble. In many places in Syria and Iraq, including urban areas, it is dug in among innocent civilian populations. It will take time to root them out.

And doing so must be the job of local forces on the ground, with training and air support from our coalition. As with any military effort, there will be periods of progress, but there are also going to be some setbacks, as we have seen with ISIL's gains in Ramadi in Iraq and Central and Southern Syria.

But, today, it is also important for us to recognize the progress that's been made. Our coalition has now hit ISIL with more than 5,000 airstrikes. We have taken out thousands of fighting positions, tanks, vehicles, bomb factories, and training camps.

We have eliminated thousands of fighters, including senior ISIL commanders. And over the past year, we have seen that, when we have an effective partner on the ground, ISIL can be pushed back.

In Iraq, ISIL lost at the Mosul Dam. ISIL lost at Mount Sinjar. ISIL has lost repeatedly across Kirkuk province. ISIL lost at Tikrit. Altogether, ISIL has lost more than a quarter of the populated areas that it had seized in Iraq. In Syria, ISIL lost at Kobani. It's recently endured losses across Northern Syria, including the key city of Tal Abyad, denying ISIL a vital supply route to Raqqa, its base of operations in Syria.

So, these are reminders that ISIL's strategic weaknesses are real. ISIL is surrounded by countries and communities committed to its destruction. It has no air force. Our coalition owns the skies. ISIL's backed by no nation. It relies on fear, sometimes executing its own disillusioned fighters. Its unrestrained brutality often alienates those under its rule,

creating new enemies. In short, ISIL's recent losses in both Syria and Iraq prove that ISIL can and will be defeated.

Indeed, we're intensifying our efforts against ISIL's base in Syria. Our airstrikes will continue to target the oil and gas facilities that fund so much of their operations. We're going after the ISIL leadership and infrastructure in Syria, the heart of ISIL that pumps funds and propaganda to people around the world.

Partnering with other countries, sharing more information, strengthening laws and border security allows us to work to stem the flow of foreign fighters to Syria, as well as Iraq, and to stem, obviously, the flow of those fighters back into our own countries.

This continues to be a challenge. And working together, all nations are going to need to do more, but we're starting to see some progress.

We're going to continue to crack down on ISIL's illicit finance around the world. By the way, if Congress really wants to help in this effort, they can confirm Mr. Adam Szubin, our nominee for Treasury undersecretary, to lead this effort.

This is a vital position to our counterterrorism efforts. Nobody suggests Mr. Szubin is not qualified; he's highly qualified. Unfortunately, his nomination has been languishing up on the Hill. And we need the Senate to confirm him as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, we continue to ramp up our training and support of local forces that are fighting ISIL on the ground. As I've said before, this aspect of our strategy was moving too slowly, but the fall of Ramadi has galvanized the Iraqi government. So with the additional steps I ordered last month, we're speeding up training of ISIL forces, including volunteers from Sunni tribes in Anbar province.

More Sunni volunteers are coming forward; some are already being trained and they can be a new force against ISIL. We continue to accelerate the delivery of critical equipment, including antitank weapons to Iraqi security forces, including the Peshmerga and tribal fighters. And I made it clear to my team that we will do more to train and equip the moderate opposition in Syria.

Now all this said, our strategy recognizes that no amount of military force will end the terror that is ISIL unless it's matched by a broader effort, political and economic, that addresses the underlying conditions that have allowed ISIL to gain traction. They have filled a void and we have to make sure that, as we push them out, that void is filled.

So as Iraqi cities and towns are liberated from ISIL, we're working with Iraq and the United Nations to help communities rebuild the security, services and governance that they need and we continue to support the efforts of Prime Minister Abadi to forge an inclusive and effective Iraqi government that unites all the people of Iraq, Shia, Sunni, Kurds and all minority communities. In Syria, the only way that the civil war will end and in a way so

that the Syrian people can unite against ISIL is an inclusive political transition to a new government without Bashar al-Assad, a government that serves all Syrians. I discussed this with our Gulf Cooperation Council partners at Camp David and during my recent call with President Putin. I made it clear the United States will continue to work for such a transition.

And a glimmer of good news is, I think, an increasing recognition on the part of all the players in the region that, given the extraordinary threat that ISIL poses, it is important for us to work together as opposed to at cross-purposes to make sure that an inclusive Syrian government exists.

While the focus of our discussions today was on Iraq and Syria, ISIL and its ideology also obviously pose a great threat beyond the region. In recent weeks we have seen deadly attacks in Tunisia, Kuwait and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. We see a growing ISIL presence in Libya and attempts to establish footholds across North Africa, the Middle East, the Caucasus and Southeast Asia.

We've seen attacks in Ottawa, Sydney, France and Copenhagen. So Ive called on the international community to unite against this scourge of violent extremism. In this fight, the United States continues to lead. When necessary to prevent attacks against our nation, we'll take direct action against terrorists.

We'll continue to also partner with nations, from Afghanistan and Nigeria, to build up their security forces. We're going to work day and night with allies and partners to disrupt terrorist networks and thwart attacks and to smother nascent ISIL cells that may be trying to develop in other parts of the world.

This also includes remaining vigilant in protecting against attacks here in the homeland. Now I think it's important for us to recognize the threat of violent extremism is not restricted to any one community.

Here in the United States, we have seen all kinds of home-grown terrorism and tragically recent history reminds us how even a single individual motivated by a hateful ideology with access to dangerous weapons can inflict horrendous harm on Americans.

So our efforts to counter violent extremism must not target any one community because of their faith or background, including patriotic Muslim Americans who are partners in keeping our country safe.

OBAMA: That said, we also have to acknowledge that ISIL has been particularly effective at reaching out to and recruiting vulnerable people around the world, including here in the United States. And they are targeting Muslim communities around the world. Numerous individuals have been arrested across the country for plotting attacks or attempting to join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.

Two men apparently inspired by ISIL opened fire in Garland, Texas. And because of our success over the years in improving our homeland security, we've made it harder for terrorists to carry out large-scale attacks like 9/11 here at home. But the threat of lone wolves or small cells of terrorists is complex. It's harder to detect and harder to prevent. It's one of the most different challenges that we face.

And preventing these kinds of attacks on American soil is going to require sustained effort.

So I just want to repeat: the good news is that, because of extraordinary efforts from law enforcement as well as our military intelligence, we are doing a better job at preventing any large-scale attacks on the homeland.

On the other hand, these small individual lone wolf attacks or small cells become harder to detect and they become more sophisticated using new technologies. And that means that we're going to have to pick up our game to prevent these attacks.

It's also true why ultimately, in order for us to defeat terrorist groups like ISIL and Al Qaeda, it is going to also require us to discredit their ideology, the twisted thinking that draws vulnerable people into their ranks.

As I've said before and I know our military leaders agree, this broader challenge of countering violent extremism is not simply a military effort. Ideologies are not defeated with guns; they're defeated by better ideas, more attractive and more compelling vision.

So the United States will continue to do our part by working with partners to counter ISIL's hateful propaganda, especially online. We'll constantly reaffirm through words and deeds that we will never be at war with Islam while fighting terrorists who distort Islam and whose victims are mostly Muslims.

But around the world, we're also going to insist on partnering with Muslim communities as they seek security, prosperity and the dignity that they deserve. And we're going to expect those communities to step up in terms of pushing back as hard as they can in conjunction with other people of goodwill against these hateful ideologies in order to discredit them more effectively, particularly when it comes to what we are teaching young people.

And this larger battle for hearts and minds is going to be a generational struggle. It's ultimately not going to be lost or won by the United States alone; it will be decided be the countries and the communities that terrorists like ISIL target. It's going to be up to Muslim communities, including scholars and clerics, to keep rejecting warped interpretations of Islam and to protect their sons and daughters from recruitment.

It will be up to all people, leaders and citizens, to reject the sectarianism that so often fuels the resentments and conflicts upon which terrorists are currently thriving. It will be up to governments to address the political and economic grievances that terrorists exploit, nations that empower citizens to decide their own destiny, that uphold human rights for all their people and invest in education and create opportunities for their young people. Those can be powerful antidotes to extremist ideologies. Those are the countries that will find a true partner in the United States.

In closing, let me note that this 4th of July we celebrated 239 years of American independence. Across more than two centuries, we faced much bigger, much more formidable challenges than this. The civil war, the Great Depression, fascism, communism, terrible natural disasters, 9/11.

And every time, every generation, our nation has risen to the moment. We don't simply endure, we emerge stronger than before and that will be the case here.

Our mission to destroy ISIL and to keep our country safe will be difficult; it will take time. There will be setbacks as well as progress. But as president and commander in chief, I want to say to all our men and women in uniform, we're serving in this operation, our pilots, the crews on the ground, our personnel, not only on the ground but at sea, our intelligence teams and our diplomatic teams, I want to thank you.

We are proud of you and you have my total confidence that you're going to succeed.

To the American people, I want to say we will continue to be vigilant. We will persevere. And just as we have, for more than two centuries, we will ultimately prevail.

Thank you very much, everybody.

And thanks to the team up on the stage here with me. They're doing an outstanding job.

Good.

You know what? I will take a question. Go ahead. QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) is that every serviceman is listening to you today, Mr. President, is wondering, are you going to veto the defense bills that are going to pay me?

What is your latest thinking on that?

Because we've heard second-hand through statements of policy that your advisers would threaten to veto.

Would you take, sir, what would you -- would you veto the --

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: Our men and women are going to get paid.

And if you'll note that I've now been president for 6.5 years and we've had some wrangling with Congress in the past. Our service members haven't missed a paycheck.

But what is also important in terms of our budget is making sure that we are not shortchanging all the elements of American power that allow us to secure the nation and to project our power around the world. So what we're not going to do is to accept a budget that shortchanges

our long-term requirements for new technologies, for readiness. We're not going to eat our seed corn by devoting too much money on things we don't need now and robbing ourselves of the capacity to make sure that we're prepared for future threats.

I've worked very closely with the chairman and the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a budget that is realistic and that looks out into the future and says this is how we're going to handle any possible contingency.

And we can't do that if we've got a budget that shortchanges vital operations and continues to fund things that are not necessary.

We also have to remind ourselves that the reason we have the best military in the world is, first and foremost, because we got the best troops in history, but it's also because we've got a strong economy and we've got a well-educated population and we've got an incredible research operation and universities that allow us to create new products that then can be translated into our military superiority around the world.

We shortchange those, we're going to be less secure. So you know, the way we have to look at this budget is to recognize that, A, we can't think short-term; we've got to think long-term and, B, part of our national security is making sure that we continue to have a strong economy and that we continue to make the investments that we need in things like education and research that are going to be vital for us to be successful long-term.

QUESTION: As an Army reservist, I'm curious to know if you have any plans to send any more American troops overseas right now? (INAUDIBLE) forces?

OBAMA: There are no current plans to do so. That's not something that we currently discussed. I've always said that I'm going to do what's necessary to protect the homeland.

One of the principles that we all agree on, though, and I press folks pretty hard because in these conversations with my military advisers, I want to make sure I'm getting blunt and unadultered (sic), uncensored advice.

But in every one of the conversations that we've had, the strong consensus is that, in order for us to succeed long-term in this fight against ISIL, we have to develop local security forces that can sustain progress.

It is not enough for us to simply send in American troops to temporarily set back organizations like ISIL, but to then, as soon as we leave, see that void filled once again with extremists. It is going to be vital for us to make sure that we are preparing the kinds of local ground forces and security forces with our partners that can not only succeed against ISIL, but then sustain in terms of security and in terms of governance. Because if we try to do everything ourselves all across the Middle East, all across North Africa, we'll be playing whack-a-mole. And there will be a whole lot of unintended consequences that ultimately make us less secure.

All right.

Thank you.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) walk away from --

OBAMA: I didn't even plan to do this. You got to have two bonus questions. Thank you.

[16:29:33] TAPPER: You just heard from President Obama speaking from the Pentagon, giving an update on the U.S. strategy, the coalition strategy versus ISIS. He took a couple of questions. That was unexpected. He was standing with not the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with whom he normally stands when he's doing an event related to the military, but starting with the wartime commanders, the commander of Special Operations, the commander of CentCom, the commander of AfriCom, and so on, talking about the campaign, talking about how to win the fight against ISIS both abroad and here.