U.S. congressional leaders from both major political parties are expressing support for the strategy to defeat the Islamic State jihadist group, outlined by President Barack Obama. But some leading Republican lawmakers say they are concerned that the military action planned by the president may not be enough to eliminate the group, also referred to as “ISIL” and “ISIS.”
Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said the president laid out a compelling strategy to the American people to defeat the Islamic State extremists who are terrorizing large parts of Iraq and Syria, and could pose a threat to the West.
Reid said he and other Democrats approve of the president’s plan to use American airstrikes to support Kurdish and Syrian opposition fighters, while not deploying any U.S. combat troops.
“There are no ground troops, I repeat, and that is the way it should be. I am confident that we will put our political differences aside and work together to give this administration the tools it needs to meet ISIS head-on," said Reid.
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives gathered to hear a classified briefing on the military strategy. Afterwards, Republican House Speaker John Boehner said Congress should give the president what he asked for, which is the authority to train Syrian rebels. But Boehner said many of his members are worried the president’s plan may not be enough to destroy the Islamic State.
"An F16 [fighter aircraft] is not a strategy, and airstrikes alone will not accomplish what we are trying to accomplish. The president has made it clear he does not want U.S. boots on the ground, well somebody's boots have to be on the ground," said Boehner.
Boehner said security briefings will continue over the next days and the House will hold a vote next week on the president’s request.
Democratic House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi said she believes funding to train the Syrian rebels should be linked to a measure to fund the U.S. federal government, and that no broader military authorization is needed at this time.
"People ask do we want a vote," she said. "Right now we believe that as the president has stated that he has the authority he needs to take the actions he described last night in his comprehensive strategy to defeat ISIS."
In the Senate, Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said this is an issue that the United States will be dealing with for years to come.
“I am glad the president has brought a new focus to the effort against ISIL," he said. "He needs to take this responsibility head-on. This Congress, the next Congress, and the next administration have serious work ahead as we consider this multi-year commitment and what it will take to defeat ISIL."
Both the House and the Senate are hoping to hold votes next week on providing the $500 million the president has asked for to train Syrian rebels, and to pass a spending bill to fund the federal government past September, so members of Congress can head home to their districts to campaign for elections coming up in November.