The United States is “hitting ISIL harder than ever,” President Obama told reporters Dec. 14 in the Pentagon briefing room. “Coalition aircraft—our fighters, bombers, and drones—have been increasing the pace of airstrikes—nearly 9,000 as of today,” Obama said, noting that the coalition dropped more bombs on ISIS in November than any other month so far. Still, Obama said, “Progress needs to keep coming faster.” Defense Secretary Ash Carter was to leave for the Middle East directly after the press briefing, Obama said, to find more military partners in the fight against ISIS. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to be in Russia on Dec. 15 “as we continue to work, as part of the Vienna process, to end the Syrian civil war,” he said. And the Department of Homeland Security is updating its alert system to help keep America safe. Obama’s brief remarks came after a National Security Council meeting at the Pentagon. He did not take questions. (Obama transcript.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.