Republicans and Democrats in Congress seem willing to come together in support of President Obama’s request for the authority to train and equip members of the Free Syrian Army, which is currently fighting both the terrorist group ISIS and Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. However, Republican leaders were dubious about the president’s overall plan to “degrade and eventually destroy ISIS.”
In a prime time television speech last night, Obama laid out his plan for “relentless” air strikes against ISIS, the terror group that has slaughtered thousands in Iraq and Syria as part of its effort to establish a new “caliphate” in the Middle East.
While Obama insisted he has the authority to enact his strategy to build the FSA into a fighting force capable of taking and holding ground in the region, he also asked Congress to support his plan.
Speaking on the Senate floor this morning, Majority Leader Harry Reid (R-NV) said it is "time for the rhetoric of campaign commercials to go away” and spoke in favor of giving the president “the authority to equip and train Syrian troops to fight these ... evil terrorists.”
Reid predicted that the Senate would pass a bill giving the president that authority in short order.
House Speaker John Boehner said he agreed with the president’s request, but said that he and many members of his party were not convinced that the plan laid out Wednesday was sufficient.
“Based on all the information that I’ve looked at, the Free Syrian Army has by and large been very well vetted by our intelligence officials. Today they’re in a fight against Assad, they’re in a fight against ISIL, and they’re on a fight against another Al Qaeda affiliate in Eastern Syria, and they’re about to get run over,” Boehner said.
“An F-16 is not a strategy and airstrikes alone will not accomplish what we want to accomplish. The president has made clear that he doesn’t want U.S. boots on the ground. Somebody’s boots have to be on the ground. So I do believe that what the president has asked for, as commander in chief, that’s this authority to train the Syrian rebels, and frankly, we ought to give the president what he’s asking for.”
The Speaker wouldn’t commit to a vote any time before next week, though. “I think we’re in the beginning stages of building the kind of support that’s necessary from the nation to carry out this plan and to carry it out successfully,” he said.
“A lot of our members don’t feel that the campaign that was outlined last night will accomplish the mission that the president says. And that is to destroy ISIL. Frankly, a lot of our members think a lot more needs to be done than what was laid out last night.”
Earlier Thursday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon expressed his doubts as well.
“The president wants to use a light footprint now in hopes that he doesn’t need a heavy footprint later,” McKeon said. He acknowledged that the president has already sent in Special Forces operators, but he insisted that more manpower will be required.
“I want our coalition to go all-in now, so that we do not risk having to use enormously more blood and treasure later,” he said.
“This will take troops. It will not take divisions,” he said. “But there’s no way around it; American boots will be standing on sand. Americans will be shot at, and they will be shooting back. There’s simply no other way to do this.”
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