President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that the US remains the world’s most important nation, even after a “long season of war”, and would continue to use drone strikes when necessary.
Speaking before graduating officers at West Point military academy, Mr Obama said he would seek to increase support for the Syrian opposition, as well as neighbouring countries including Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq that have faced an influx of refugees and fear the spread of terrorism.
“In helping those who fight for the right of all Syrians to choose their own future, we also push back against the growing number of extremists who find safe haven in the chaos,” Mr Obama said.
One plan being considered by the White House is a new project to train and equip members of the Free Syrian Army on tactics including counterterrorism.
The President’s speech came one day after he outlined plans to wind down America’s lengthy war in Afghanistan by the end of 2016. The blueprint calls for keeping 9,800 troops in Afghanistan for training and counterterrorism even after combat missions end later this year, but then withdrawing them within two years.
He was greeted by cheers from the graduating cadets when he noted that they had the distinction of being “the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.”
Mr Obama also praised ongoing diplomatic efforts between Iran, the US and its negotiating partners that aim to stop Iran developing nuclear capabilities. While Mr Obama said the odds of reaching an agreement are still long, he also said a diplomatic breakthrough would be “more effective and durable than what would be achieved through the use of force.”
“Throughout these negotiations, it has been our willingness to work through multilateral channels that kept the world on our side,” he said.