President Obama said it would be a "mistake" to send in U.S. ground troops, pushing back against critics calling for more deployments in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday.
Speaking to the G20 summit in Turkey, Obama said it wasn't just his opinion, but the opinion of his closest military advisers that his strategy against the Islamic State is working.
"We have the finest military in the world and we have the finest military minds in the world," Obama said. "And I've been meeting with them intensively for years now discussing these various options. It is not just my view, but the view of my closest military advisers and civilian advisers, that that would be a mistake. Not because our military couldn't march into Mosul or Raqqa or Ramadi and temporarily clear out ISIL. But because we would see a repetition of what we've seen before.
"If you do not have local populations that are committed to inclusive governance, and who are pushing back against ideological extremists, that they resurface — unless you're prepared to have a permanent occupation of these countries."
Obama said that the U.S. strategy "is ultimately the strategy will work." The U.S. strategy uses "all elements of our power: military, intelligence, economy, development and the strength of our community."
He said his critics offer no new strategies.
"[W]hen you listen to what they actually have to say; what they're proposing, most the time, when pressed, they describe things that we're already doing," Obama said.
"Some seem to think that if I was just more bellicose in what I'm saying, that would make a difference because it seems to be the only thing," they are doing differently. They are "talking as if they are tough" but aren't saying things that would make a difference, Obama said.
"My only interest is to end suffering and keep the American people safe," Obama said, adding that he won't take actions just because it's going to work politically or somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough, or make me look tough."
Obama said that, unlike his critics, he bears the responsibility of knowing that he is sending young Americans into harms way and some come back injured, or not at all. He's reminded "every few months" when he visits the military hospital, Walter Reed, in Washington, D.C.
"So I can't afford to play some of the political games that others might play," he said. "Folks want to pop off … present a specific plan," he challenged.
"If they think their advisers are better than the chairman of my chiefs of staff …then I want to meet them." But he's "not interested in posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership … that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people and to protect people in the region … and our allies like France."
"I'm too busy for that," he added.