The Department of Defense said Wednesday that it is not prepared to recommend the use of U.S. ground troops to beat back the Islamic State, which is now battling for control of Kobani, a town on the border of Syria and Turkey.
Pentagon Spokesman Adm. John Kirby told reporters Wednesday that U.S. airstrikes will only have a limited effect, and that ground troops will be needed to stop the advance of the Islamic State and retake territory it has seized. But he said the military continues to believe that local, indigenous forces are the best ground forces that could be used to fight the Islamic State, and then admitted those forces don't exist yet in Syria.
Pentagon press secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said Wednesday that the Pentagon won't recommend the use of U.S. ground forces to save a Syria-Turkey border town from the Islamic State, and acknowledged that the town of Kobani could fall to the terrorist group. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
"The ground forces that matter the most are indigenous ground forces," he said. "And we don't have a willing, capable, effective partner on the ground inside Syria right now. It's just a fact, I can't change that."
As a result, he acknowledged that Kobani could fall into the hands of the Islamic State.
"We're doing everything we can, from the air, to try to halt the momentum of ISIL against that town, but that air power is not going to be, alone, enough to save that city," he said. "We all need to prepare ourselves for the reality that other towns and villages, and perhaps Kobani, will be taken by ISIL."
Kirby also said ground forces will be needed to ensure the terror organization has no safe haven in Syria. But he again admitted there are no such ground forces ready.
"The long-term fix is… going to be competent ground forces that can re-take territory from them," he said. "And in Syria, right now we just don't have a ground force that we can work with."
That prompted a reporter to ask whether it's time to recommend the insertion of U.S. ground troops. But when asked whether it's time to make that call, Kirby had a one-word answer, "No."
When asked why the department doesn't see Kobani as a strategic city, Kirby said only that the U.S. is pursuing a broader strategy that has included some recent airstrikes in that town.
"It's easy to get fixated on one town, but I think it's really important for you and the American people to take a couple of steps back here and look at the larger regional context within which this fight is being made," he said.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said Wednesday that it's time for President Barack Obama to admit the need for U.S. ground troops.
"Evidence is mounting that an 'Iraq first' approach focused on airstrikes isn't degrading ISIL," he said. "From Kobani to Baghdad they are using their Syrian sanctuary to make gains."
"The president needs to adopt a broader strategy if we are to protect our interests," he said, just before Obama was set to get an update on the Islamic State and other issues at the Pentagon. "He needs to walk out of the Pentagon willing to put new options on the table, rather than continuing to rule them out."