President Barack Obama speaks at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014.

President Barack Obama speaks at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. (Chris Urso/The Tampa Tribune)

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama received a briefing on updated war plans Wednesday as the U.S. military prepares to go on the offensive against Islamic State militants.

“We’re going to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. ... We mean what we say: Our reach is long; if you threaten America you will find no safe haven,” Obama told troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

Earlier, he had met with Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of U.S. Central Command, and other defense officials at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa.

ISIL is an acronym used to refer to the Islamic State.

Obama did not provide details about the briefing, but he offered a broad outline of what the campaign against the Islamic State will entail.

“We will use our airpower. We will train and equip our partners. We will advise them and we will assist them. We will lead a broad coalition of countries who have a stake in this fight,” he said.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told lawmakers Tuesday that he and chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey have already signed off on CENTCOM’s plans.

“The new, broader air campaign will include strikes against all ISIL targets and enable the Iraqi security forces — including Kurdish forces — to continue to stay on the offensive and recapture territory from ISIL and hold it,” Hagel told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee at a Tuesday hearing. “Because ISIL operates freely across the Iraqi-Syrian border, and maintains a safe haven in Syria, our actions will not be restrained by a border in name only.”

Hagel said targets in Syria would include the group’s command and control centers, infrastructure and logistics capabilities.

Until earlier this week, the Pentagon had been using airpower in Iraq for defensive purposes to protect U.S. personnel and facilities and prevent humanitarian catastrophes. But on Monday, CENTCOM launched airstrikes against militant fighting positions southwest of Baghdad to support the Iraqi military.

“The airstrike southwest of Baghdad was the first strike taken as part of our expanded efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions to hit ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense,” CENTCOM said in a press release.

The Pentagon has yet to bomb Islamic State targets in Syria, but Obama said last week that the U.S. air campaign would soon expand there. The administration has also called on Congress to fund an effort to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State.

There will soon be about 1,600 American troops in Iraq. In recent months, hundreds have been deployed to protect U.S. facilities and advise and assess Iraqi forces, but Obama has repeatedly ruled out using U.S. ground troops for combat.

“I want to make clear the American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not, and will not, have a combat mission … As your commander in chief I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq after a decade of massive ground deployments,” he told troops Wednesday.

During testimony on Tuesday, Dempsey told lawmakers that Austin wanted to embed U.S. forces with Iraqi units to call in airstrikes against Islamic State targets. And the nation’s top military officer said that he might support using ground troops in certain situations.

“If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the President,” Dempsey said.

Stars and Stripes reporter Travis J. Tritten contributed to this report. Twitter: @JHarperStripes

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