Obama Promises 'Relentless' Campaign Against ISIL

President Obama faces reporters, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 on the island of Martha's Vineyard, to speak about the beheading of journalist James Foley by militants with the Islamic State extremist group. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

President Obama pledged Wednesday that the U.S. would wage a "relentless" campaign to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and bring to justice the killers of American photojournalist James Foley.

The U.S. "will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless," Obama said in a brief statement from Martha's Vineyard, where he is vacationing.

"When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what's necessary to see that justice is done, and we act against ISIL, standing alongside others," Obama said.

Obama gave no immediate indication of whether he would order an expansion of the current air campaign against ISIL beyond the goals of protecting U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq, and providing humanitarian assistance.

However, the U.S. State Department requested that the Defense Department send as many as 300 additional troops to Iraq to bolster protection for the Baghdad Embassy and at consulates in Basra and the Kurdish capital of Irbil.

An additional 300 troops would boost the U.S. troop presence in Iraq to nearly 1,200.

U.S. Central Command said Wednesday that U.S. warplanes conducted wide-ranging strikes in the area of the Mosul dam, but a Defense official said the airstrikes were unrelated to Foley's killing.

The State Department also requested that another small contingent of troops be sent to protect personnel in Baghdad. Currently, there are about 860 U.S. troops in Iraq, mostly in Baghdad and the Kurdish capital of Irbil.

Central Command officials said that U.S. fighters and armed drones carried out 14 airstrikes near the Mosul dam, which Kurdish and Iraqi forces recaptured on Monday.

The airstrikes hit six Humvees, two armed trucks, one mortar tube and three improvised explosive device emplacements, CentCom said.

Since Aug. 8, when the bombing campaign began, U.S. warplanes have carried out a total of 84 airstrikes, including 51 near the dam, the Command said.

In his remarks condemning Foley's execution, Obama said: "Today, the entire world is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley by the terrorist group ISIL."

Obama spoke a day after ISIL circulated a gruesome video showing the beheading of Foley. Foley was working as a free-lancer for Agence France Presse and the media outlet GlobalPost when he was captured in 2012.

Obama hailed Foley, 40, of Rochester, N.H., as "a journalist, a son, a brother, and a friend.  He reported from difficult and dangerous places, bearing witness to the lives of people a world away."

"He was taken hostage nearly two years ago in Syria, and he was courageously reporting at the time on the conflict there," Obama said.

In a statement attributed to Foley's mother, Diane Foley, the Foley family said: "He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people." The statement implored ISIL to spare other hostages: "Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world."

Obama said that he had spoken by phone with the Foley family earlier Wednesday "and told them that we are all heartbroken at their loss, and join them in honoring Jim and all that he did."

Obama said that "Jim Foley's life stands in stark contrast to his killers. Let's be clear about ISIL. They have rampaged across cities and villages -- killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence."

"ISIL speaks for no religion," Obama said. "Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents. No just God would stand for what they did yesterday."

ISIL has threatened to murder other hostages in response to the U.S. air campaign. The number of hostages held by ISIL was unclear, but the terror group was believed to have captured other journalists and aid workers.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that "approximately 20 journalists are currently missing in Syria, many held by the Islamic State," the New York Times reported.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@monster.com

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Iraq Barack Obama Terrorism