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Obama: US will lead coalition to fight ISIS, no US combat troops fighting on foreign soil

President Barack Obama called Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah on Wednesday ahead of an evening speech in which the U.S. leader plans to lay out his strategy for defeating the militant group Islamic State, the White House said.
Reuters
President Barack Obama called Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah on Wednesday ahead of an evening speech in which the U.S. leader plans to lay out his strategy for defeating the militant group Islamic State, the White House said.

President Barack Obama plans to announce that the U.S. will join a "broad coalition" to fight the Islamic State.

The goal for this coalition will be to eradicate the militant group—also known as ISIS or ISIL—according to excerpts of the president's prepared remarks to the nation Wednesday night. And while Obama plans to pledge firm U.S. involvement in the fight against the extremists, the early excerpts from the address indicate that he will reiterate his resolve to keep American troops from fighting on the ground in the region.

"So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat," Obama's speech will say. "Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy."

Experts told CNBC that this sort of decisive statement will be needed to assure allies on the ground that the U.S. is taking the ISIS threat seriously.

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"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," the president's speech excerpts said. "This counter-terrorism 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. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years."

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While foreign policy specialists said they were divided on whether the U.S. should be sending troops to assist the Iraqi and Kurdish forces on the ground in combat, each one interviewed by CNBC emphasized that the president should not announce to the world what he will not do.

"Obama should not say what's not going to be employed," Michael Rubin, a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School and author of the book "Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes," said earlier Wednesday.

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"Privately he may want to keep options off the table, but in public he shouldn't say that," Rubin said, explaining that there are strategic benefits to having ISIS leaders worrying that there could be American troops deployed in Syria.

—By CNBC's Everett Rosenfeld