U.S. President Barack Obama cited the importance of the coalition comprised of Middle Eastern states that assisted in Monday night's airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria during a brief statement Tuesday. The president said the next step in the fight against ISIS is training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS.
"The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America's fight alone," Obama said during a five-minute address to the media. He did not take questions.
The president said more than 40 nations have offered to help defeat ISIS, although it's unclear which countries are involved and what level of assistance they are willing to provide. He also did not go into detail about the airstrikes in Syria aimed at the Khorosan group, an al Qaeda unit operating in Syria that reportedly had imminent plans to strike U.S. and Western targets.
At least 70 Islamic State fighters were killed in the airstrikes, which hit 50 targets in eastern Syria, Reuters reported. The strikes marked an expansion of the U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State, which were previously limited to attacks against the militants in Syria.
The airstrikes also targeted al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, in northern Syria. The U.S. said an al Qaeda unit known as the Khorasan group was struck because it was planning on attacking U.S. and Western interests.
“The group has established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operation,” the U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement.
Five Middle East Nations played a role in the Syrian airstrikes against ISIS: Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, according to the Defense Department. ISIS fighters, training compounds and the group’s headquarters in Raqqa were targeted, as well as storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks and armored vehicles, the agency said.
Obama’s action received support from Republican lawmakers, including U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
"I support the president's actions to target ISIL's facilities in Syria. I have argued for months that President Obama has the authority to confront this threat to the United States wherever they seek refuge," Rubio said in a statement, using an alternative name for ISIS. "Defeating this menace to all who value freedom and tolerance will not be easy, but is essential to our security. My thoughts and prayers are with our men and women in uniform carrying out their duties as part of ongoing operations in Iraq and Syria."
Chambliss, who is retiring after his term ends next year, also welcomed the strikes.
"I commend our allies in the region for stepping up and demonstrating their commitment to the fight against ISIL," he said in a statement. "I'm hopeful these strikes directed at hard targets will result in measurable progress towards degrading ISIL's capabilities and possibly even taking out ISIL fighters and leadership. As the United States moves forward with military action to defeat ISIL, we must continue to engage our allies in these efforts and work together to eliminate this dangerous cancer."
Obama’s comments came before he left for New York City to attend the United Nation’s General Assembly.