House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) urged President Obama Wednesday to rethink his strategy against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), after defense officials acknowledged that the terrorist group might take over the Syrian town of Kobani.
“Evidence is mounting that an ‘Iraq first’ approach focused on airstrikes isn’t degrading ISIL,” McKeon said in a statement, using an alternate acronym for ISIS.
He urged the president to adopt a “broader strategy” that could include the use of U.S. ground forces.
“From [Kobani] to Baghdad they are using their Syrian sanctuary to make gains,” he added.
The Pentagon on Wednesday also said U.S.-led airstrikes would not be enough to save Kobani, which could fall to ISIS.
“Airstrikes alone are not going to do this, not going to fix this, not going to save the town of Kobani,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said at a Pentagon briefing.
He said capable ground forces in Iraq and Syria would have to defeat the group, but acknowledged that such forces did not exist in Syria at the moment.
The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura warned in a video message Wednesday that the Kurdish residents of Kobani would be subjected to “massacres, humanitarian tragedies, rapes, horrific violence.”
McKeon’s comments precede a rare visit by President Obama to the Pentagon. He will meet Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and combat commanders, and get an update on the campaign against ISIS as well as the Pentagon’s efforts against Ebola in Africa.
Afterwards, the president’s national security team will provide the president with an update on the U.S.-led ISIS campaign.
Kirby told reporters that the Pentagon was not expecting any changes to the president’s ISIS strategy.
“He needs to walk out of the Pentagon willing to put new options on the table, rather than continuing to rule them out,” McKeon said.