White House still seeking coalition in Mideast war

WASHINGTON — The White House said Sunday it will find countries willing to send combat troops to fight Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq, but it’s too early to identify them.

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough signaled that the State Department in coming days will name allies that will pledge ground troops to fight the Islamic State group, something the United States does not plan to do. Meantime, McDonough said, U.S. personnel will train and equip Iraqi forces and moderate Syrian rebels to combat the extremist group, also known as ISIS and ISIL.

President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that the United States will ramp up air strikes and try to build an international coalition to degrade and eventually destroy the group. The Islamic State group released a video late Saturday showing a militant beheading a British aid worker. It was similar to recent beheadings of two American journalists.

Facing strong public opposition to sending U.S. troops back into the Middle East, Obama said he doesn’t plan to do so. But he said ground troops of some form are essential, a point McDonough was asked about on several talk shows Sunday.

McDonough repeatedly declined to name any nations willing to provide ground forces, and he was cautious in suggesting what might develop.

On NBC television’s “Meet the Press,” McDonough said Secretary of State John Kerry “over the coming days” will discuss whether any allied nation has pledged ground troops. “And what he has said is that others have suggested that they’re willing to do that,” McDonough said.

Pressed again on possible pledges of combat troops, McDonough seemed slightly less hesitant. “You will hear from Secretary Kerry that countries are saying that they’re ready to do that,” he said.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot said Sunday his nation is preparing to contribute 600 troops and up to 10 military aircraft to the campaign against the Islamic State group extremists.

For the last week, Kerry has traveled across the Mideast, to Turkey and finally Paris, to pin down nations on what kind of support they will give to a global coalition. But Kerry has refused to detail what countries have committed. He said some nations are still deciding whether their contributions will target foreign fighters or financiers helping the militant group, send more humanitarian aid to Syrian and Iraqi refugees, mount a propaganda campaign to decry the extremists’ brand of radical Islam or join a military mission.

Kerry cited reports that France is prepared to use air power against the Islamic militants. On Monday, Paris will host international talks seeking a strategy against the militants in Iraq, where they have overrun vast swaths of territory in the country’s north and west.

But the militant group’s safe haven is in Syria, among numerous Sunni rebel factions that have fought for more than three years to unseat President Bashar Assad.

Several Arab countries offered to conduct airstrikes against the Islamic State group, according to a State Department official traveling with Kerry who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic developments during his trip.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, suggested Sunday that enlisting greater help from Mideast allies might not be so difficult. McCaul, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he recently met “with the prince of Jordan,” who “said he is ready today to put his troops into Syria to fight ISIS. So I don’t know why we wouldn’t consider that option of all the Arab nations.” McCaul’s staff said he was referring to Prince Feisal Bin Al-Hussein.

Congress plans votes, possibly this week, on Obama’s request for authority to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic militants in Syria. Leaders of both parties have generally expressed support for the plan.

But some lawmakers worry that U.S. arms given to Syrian rebels might wind up being used against Americans or their allies in that violence-torn nation enduring a three-way war.

“I don’t think arming the rebels in this instance is necessarily going to be productive,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said on “Face the Nation.”

“We spent years training the Iraqi forces,” Gillibrand said, “and ISIS was able to cut through them like butter.”

McDonough, on “Fox News Sunday,” defended the idea of training and arming Syrian rebels. Since the U.S. is not sending ground troops, he said, “we ought to make sure that the Syrians are taking this fight, which is their fight, to ISIL.”

Kerry is scheduled to testify to congressional committees Wednesday and Thursday. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will address the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

Talk to us

More in Local News

An example of the Malicious Women Co. products (left) vs. the Malicious Mermaid's products (right). (U.S. District Court in Florida)
Judge: Cheeky candle copycat must pay Snohomish company over $800K

The owner of the Malicious Women Co. doesn’t expect to receive any money from the Malicious Mermaid, a Florida-based copycat.

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

A fatal accident the afternoon of Dec. 18 near Clinton ended with one of the cars involved bursting into flames. The driver of the fully engulfed car was outside of the vehicle by the time first responders arrived at the scene. (Whidbey News-Times/Submitted photo)
Driver sentenced in 2021 crash that killed Everett couple

Danielle Cruz, formerly of Lynnwood, gets 17½ years in prison. She was impaired by drugs when she caused the crash that killed Sharon Gamble and Kenneth Weikle.

A person walks out of the Everett Clinic on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The Everett Clinic changing name to parent company Optum in 2024

The parent company says the name change will not affect quality of care for patients in Snohomish County.

Tirhas Tesfatsion (GoFundMe) 20210727
Lynnwood settles for $1.7 million after 2021 suicide at city jail

Jail staff reportedly committed 16 safety check violations before they found Tirhas Tesfatsion, 47, unresponsive in her cell.

A semi-truck rolled over blocking all traffic lanes Thursday morning on I-5 north just south of Arlington on Sept. 21, 2023. (Washington State Patrol)
Overturned trailer spills fish onto I-5 near Arlington, closing lanes

The crash blocked all lanes, forcing drivers going north during rush hour to use the left shoulder.

The Marysville Municipal Jail is pictured Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Marysville weighs mandatory jail time for repeated ‘public disorder’

The “three strikes” proposal sets a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail for crimes like public drug use and trespassing.

Everett police on patrol heard gunshots near 26th Street and Lombard Avenue and closed off multiple roads as they investigated on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Everett Police Department)
3 teens arrested after gunfire in downtown Everett

No one was injured. Police heard gunfire in the area of 26th Street and Lombard Avenue.

It’s time to celebrate and say thanks

Local journalism — and community support — will be the stars of Behind the News Stories on Oct. 24 in Edmonds.

Most Read