Military officials here and at U.S. Central Command are working to present President Barack Obama with options to contain the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Syria, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said here today.
Kirby told reporters that officials are taking under consideration the changing situation with the terror group.
During a White House press conference yesterday, President Obama said he had directed DoD to present options to him.
“What the president was referring to yesterday was planning options inside Syria,” Kirby said. “Now, I’d be less than truthful if I said to you that we … hadn’t been thinking about that before yesterday. Of course we have been. And we’ve talked about that.”
Still, the department is not at the point where plans are mature enough to have the discussion with the commander-in-chief, Kirby said. A second point is that all those involved, including the president, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have repeatedly said that options in Syria are not limited to the military.
“It can’t just be military,” Kirby said. “There’s not going to be a military solution here to the threat that ISIL poses. It’s just not going to happen.”
Containing and eliminating the terror group will take all elements of national power, he said. “So while we certainly, for our part, have to work on what those options could look like, there are other parts of our government that are working, as well, on options that they might need to pursue in the future going forward,” the admiral said.
In the meantime, Kirby said, operations against ISIL will continue. The United States has been providing humanitarian aid to Iraqis victimized by ISIL’s brutal tactics. U.S. aircraft have also flown a number of strikes against the terror group in and around Irbil and around the Mosul Dam area. “We’re up almost to 110 air strikes total since they began,” Kirby said.
The admiral said U.S. efforts are about degrading ISIL’s capability to operate and the terror group’s ability “to conduct the sort of brutal violence that they have been doing inside Iraq and the threat that they pose to the region.”
Officials said that on a tactical level inside Iraq, the strikes are having an effect on ISIL’s ability to operate. “We’re being disruptive to their operations, to their command and control, to their ability to move around,” Kirby said.
Delivering humanitarian assistance in Iraq and building capabilities of Iraqi security forces are also ways to impact and degrade ISIL. DoD has asked for $500 million for a train and equip program for a moderate Syrian opposition.
“We hope to get that authorized and appropriated for fiscal year 2015, which is coming up here pretty soon, so that we can move out on this,” Kirby said. “There are a lot of hurdles that remain to be leaped, in terms of getting us there.”