White House

Obama touts America's global leadership

President Barack Obama takes part in a briefing at US Central Command with General Lloyd Austin at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, on September 17, 2014.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

President Barack Obama delivered a justification for America's actions against the Islamic State on Wednesday—citing the country's role as a global leader, but calling on allies to support the fight.

"When the world is threatened, when the world needs help, it calls on America—even the countries that complain about America, when they need help, who do they call? They call us," Obama told an assembly of troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.

Still, he repeated several times that the U.S. has no intention of fighting the Islamic State alone, and that America has learned over the past decade that regional partners need to be fully invested in this sort of campaign.

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And, he added, "it is more effective to use our unique capabilities in support of partners on the ground so they can secure their own countries future."

The president was at the base to visit U.S. Central Command operations, receiving a briefing from top commanders and thanking the troops.

Last week, Obama said he would be extending the U.S. military campaign against Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) to include airstrikes in Syria. He did, however, emphasize that he did not intend to send American troops to fill combat roles on the ground.

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Despite this, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that ground combat could be part of a later strategy for the American military.

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—By CNBC's Everett Rosenfeld