President Barack Obama has picked retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen to coordinate the effort to destroy the Islamic State, U.S. officials said Thursday.
The Associated Press reported that Allen, who helped create and foster the Anbar Awakening in western Iraq in 2007, a unique relationship where Sunnis joined the U.S. Marines in the fight against al-Qaeda, will carry out the strategy laid out by the commander-in-chief in a televised, prime-time speech on Wednesday night.
The speech came on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Since retiring in early last year after serving as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Allen has been serving as an advisor to the Obama administration, and Secretary of State John Kerry in particular. He has been working behind the scenes to help broker a Mideast peace deal during the recent conflict between Hamas and the Israelis. In an interview with Defense One back in June, Allen urged Obama to strike the Islamic State “with a hard blow.”
On Aug. 20, just after U.S. journalist James Foley was beheaded by Islamic State militants, Allen wrote again for Defense One, this time in an op-ed, urging the president to act “now.”
“If all the actions of the Islamic State, or IS, to date weren’t sufficiently reprehensible, this act and the potential for other similar acts will snap American attention with laser-like focus onto the real danger IS poses to the existence of Iraq, the order of the region and to the homelands of Europe and America,” Allen wrote.
Allen is a highly respected leader. He’s had Obama’s ear ever since retiring early last year, most recently telling him that the United States “remains the only nation on the planet capable of exerting the kind of strategic leadership, influence and strike capacity to deal with IS.”
Allen, who has been serving as a security adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry, is expected to work with the nearly 40 nations around the world who have agreed to join the fight and help them coordinate what each will contribute, several officials told AP.
Another addition to Obama’s Islamic State campaign was added Thursday: the president has now authorized the Pentagon to seek out and kill Islamic State leaders, two U.S. military officials told The Washington Post. Previously, the goal of U.S. airstrikes was limited to the protection of American personnel and property in Iraq. Now individual leaders, including the Islamic State’s self-appointed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, can expect to be targeted by the recent increase in Obama’s regional effort to degrade and ultimately destroy the Sunni extremist group.