A State Department spokeswoman indicated Wednesday that the Obama administration is still not entertaining the thought of sending ground troops to Syria to attack the Islamic State, even after the terrorist group shocked the country by publicly executing a U.S. photojournalist.
Video released of the execution of James Foley prompted Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to call for a direct attack against the Islamic State in Syria.
State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf said the government was looking at various options for responding to Foley’s death.
“We are committed to bringing these people to justice,” she said. “We are committed to fighting ISIL long-term. We are determining the best way to continue our efforts to do that.”
But when pressed by reporters, she said injecting ground troops into Syria was not one of those options. “We’ve always said, all options except for boots,” she said. “That is still the case.”
Some of the steps the administration has taken to fight the Islamic State including working with other countries to shut off its access to money and foreign fighters. Beyond that, she had no other details on what other steps might be taken to bring Foley’s killers to justice.
“I’m not going to outline what tactical military or intelligence options are at our disposal to respond here,” she said. “But we have the ability to hold people accountable for what they’ve done.”
Barring the use of ground troops, one possible option for the administration is to work to identify the group who killed Foley, and then somehow apprehend them and bring them to the United States for a trial.
Officials used that same approach to deal with those who attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Two months ago, a team captured Ahmed Abu Khattala in Libya, the first suspect seized from the Benghazi attack.
The problem is it took nearly two years to capture Khattala, which led to complaints from Republicans that there did not appear to be any effort to find the attackers. A similar delay in efforts to find the men responsible for Foley’s death could lead to more criticism.
Harf was peppered with several questions about what steps the U.S. might take next because Obama himself indicated some new action would be forthcoming as part of a U.S. response.
“The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless,” Obama told reporters at a press conference from his vacation retreat in Massachusetts.
“When people harm Americans anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done, and we act against ISIL standing alongside others,” he added.
Secretary of State John Kerry added in a separate statement that the U.S. would continue to “confront ISIL.”
“The world must know that the United States of America will never back down in the face of such evil,” Kerry said. “ISIL and the wickedness it represents must be destroyed, and those responsible for this heinous, vicious atrocity will be held accountable.”