As the United States continued to pound ISIS positions in Iraq, President Barack Obama on Thursday said he had not decided yet on extending military action into Syria.
The US doesn’t even “have a strategy yet,” the president said at a White House news briefing, adding, “Folks are getting a little further ahead of where we’re at.”
Based on statements from senior officials in his administration, recent news reports have seemed to suggest military action in Syrian, in pursuit of the ISIS, was imminent.
But he hadn’t taken that call yet.
Besides, he said, any strategy to deal with the ISIS would have to include a coalition of regional players, who he added, were increasingly cognizant of the three posed by the ISIS.
Secretary of state John Kerry will be traveling to the region shortly to build on it — countries such as Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others.
For now, US military mission was confined to protecting American citizens and interests in Iraq and help Iraqi and Kurdish forces roll back the ISIS.
To that end, the president said, he has asked Pentagon for “a range of options”, which he made clear, were on how to prevent the the terrorist outfit from “overrunning” Iraq.
US central command said five air strikes were carried out on ISIS positions near Modul Dam on Thursday bringing up the total to 106 since the start of the campaign on August 8.
But pressure has been mounting on the administration to do more against the brutal terrorist outfit that executed American journalist James Foley last week, on video.
Reflecting public outrage, Secretary Kerry said the ISIS needed to be crushed. Chairman of the joint chiefs Martin Dempsey said that wasn’t possible without going after it in Syria.
Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters on Martha’s Vineyard, where the president was vacationing last week the US will not let boundaries come in its way.
The ISIS, which now calls itself Islamic State, is in control of vast areas of northern Iraq and Syria giving its fighters plenty of room to fight and hide, across a non-existent border.
Talk of imminent strikes in Syria picked up with reports of the president approving surveillance flights over that country in search of ISIS fighters, leaders and hideouts.
US military and intelligence officials believe there are serious deficiencies in real-time information on the terrorist outfit that has swept across the region over the past months.
An attempt to rescue Americans held hostage by the ISIS in Syria — including Foley — failed in July because they had been moved by the time the special operations team reached there.
Therefore, the newly approved surveillance flights, which, by the way, the president skipped altogether at the briefing. No mention at all. In fact, his responses on Syria seemed scripted.