President Barack Obama went before the American people Wednesday to lay out his plan to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State militants who have seized control of a huge stretch of Syria and Iraq. A look at his plan, the extremists and the campaign to defeat them.
THE STRATEGY: Obama wants to step up military and diplomatic efforts to counter the extremists in Iraq and Syria. That means arming Syrian opposition forces and extending U.S. airstrikes into Syria. (The U.S. already is bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq.) The president also said he would send another 475 U.S. troops into Iraq to advise that country's forces, but insists they are not combat troops. And he's pressing for an expanded global coalition of at least 40 nations united against the militants, with Canada, Australia, numerous European countries, Sunni Arab allies and NATO member Turkey playing leading roles. Arab countries are meeting in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to discuss a parallel coalition.
CONGRESS' ROLE: There will be plenty of debate in coming days about how much say Congress has in all of this. Already, House Republicans have rebuffed Obama's requests for explicit approval to train and equip Syrian rebels, although the Senate may give its OK. On the broader campaign to defeat the Islamic State group, Obama says he has the authority to proceed on his own. But there are mixed opinions about that within Congress.
THE MILITANTS: The Islamic State group has seized one-third of Syria and Iraq and wants to create an Islamic state, or caliphate, ruled by a strict form of Shariah law that orders women to stay inside their homes, bans music and punishes thieves by cutting off their hands, among other restrictions. Formerly known as al-Qaida in Iraq, it is a Sunni-led group that emerged from the sectarian violence of the Iraq War and the Syrian civil war. In 2004, the State Department classified it a terrorist organization. The group, which recently beheaded two American journalists, has developed such a brutal reputation that in February it was disavowed even by the core al-Qaida organization. ISIS and ISIL are older acronyms for the same organization.
THE THREAT: The Obama administration doesn't think the militants pose any immediate threat of an attack in the U.S. But it believes the group is a threat to the Middle East and could attack U.S. targets overseas. The U.S. also worries about the group training and radicalizing Americans who could later return to attack America.
THE RESPONSE, SO FAR: The U.S. already has launched about 150 airstrikes on Islamic State targets inside Iraq, at the invitation of the Iraqi government. It also has sent military advisers, supplies and humanitarian aid to help Iraqi troops and Kurdish forces beat back the insurgents.