President Obama on Wednesday hit back at criticisms of his admission that the White House lacked a strategy for a broader confrontation with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

“I was specifically referring to the possibility of a military strategy inside of Syria that might require congressional approval,” Obama said in a press conference Wednesday.

“The United States will continue to lead a regional and international effort against the kind of barbaric and ultimately empty vision that [ISIS] represents,” the president added.

Critics pounced on Obama’s acknowledgment last week that “we don’t have a strategy yet” for how to expand on U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq. Obama’s detractors say his comments were emblematic of a president detached and overwhelmed by a series of crises on the global stage.

But the president on Wednesday defended his cautious approach, saying the White House was not ignoring the dangers presented by ISIS.

“Our objective is to make sure that [ISIS] is not an ongoing threat to the region, and we can accomplish that,” he insisted. “It’s going to take some time. It’s going to take some effort.”