Separate from the Syrian Kurds, the United States is training about 190 moderate Syrians at sites in Jordan and Turkey with the aim of sending them back into battle to defend their hometowns against the Islamic State.
Following a meeting with almost three dozen members of his national security team, the president said the US would step up its effort to cut off ISIS’ cash flow and accelerate the fight against the group in Syria.
The Pentagon visit comes a day prior to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s scheduled testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on progress in the Middle East. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey will also testify Tuesday.
“We are doing more in Syria from the air”.
President Barack Obama said that, despite recent setbacks, the current USA strategy would defeat Islamic State – but it won’t happen fast.
With Iraq and Syria having erupted in chaos, Turkey now fears the establishment of a Kurdish nation along its southern border spanning the two countries.
Efforts to train local forces in Iraq and Syria, however, have been slow to take shape.
Ahead of his statement on Monday, President Obama met with military leaders at the Pentagon to speak about Syria, where U.S.-led forces conducted 18 airstrikes overnight in Islamic State-controlled Raqqa.
President Obama has warned that the campaign against the so-called Islamic State “will not be quick” as he cited gains made in Iraq and Syria by the coalition fighting the militant group. American-backed opposition forces have forced ISIS out of several key positions in Iraq, including the Mosul Dam and the cities of Kirkuk and Tikrit, and from key areas of northern Syria, Obama noted. “It is not enough for us to simply send in American troops to temporarily set back organizations like (ISIS), but then as soon as we leave see that void filled again by extremists”, Obama said.
As Obama prepared to visit the Pentagon on Monday, the White House complained publicly that Senate Republicans are dragging their feet in confirming his nominee to target terrorist funding in a sanctions drive at the Treasury Department.
“And a glimmer of good news is, I think, an increasing recognition on the part of all the players in the region that, given the extraordinary threat that ISIL poses, it is important for us to work together as opposed to at cross-purposes to make sure that an inclusive Syrian government exists”, he said. Fewer than 100 rebels are being trained by the USA, far less than the goal of producing 5,400 fighters a year.
Obama added to the criticism in his Pentagon remarks. He pledged that the US will continue to provide training and equipment to local forces, including to Kurdish and tribal forces. Last month, President Obama and his top defense officials presented mixed messages about their approach.