Obama to get ISIS war 'update' at Pentagon

Obama to get ISIS war 'update' at Pentagon
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President Obama is making a rare trip to the Pentagon on Monday, to meet with his top national security advisers to discuss the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 
 
But don't expect any serious reevaluation of the current strategy against ISIS, the White House said Friday. 
 
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"At this point ... it is an update," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. 
 
However, the last time the president went to get such an update at the Pentagon in July, it led to a decision to send about 50 U.S. special operations forces into Syria, among other steps to intensify the campaign.  
 
During that meeting, the president "reaffirmed to all of us in the room that he was willing to hear all options of doing more in Iraq and Syria, as long as they would produce strategic success vice just tactical success," a senior defense official told Pentagon reporters during a background briefing on Oct. 30, after the White House announced the new steps. 
 
"We went about taking a very hard look at what was working, what wasn't working, in both Iraq and Syria, and what we thought might help us enhance our campaign," she said. 
 
Other steps included striking different kinds of oil infrastructure used by ISIS to finance its operations, and delivering ammunition to Syrian opposition rebels. The Pentagon announced about a month later that about 200 more special operations forces would deploy to the region to conduct raids in Iraq and Syria. 
 
While the steps were welcomed by critics of the president's strategy, it did not quell calls for him to do more to wipe out the terrorist group. 
 
And the president has been under increasing pressure to do more, especially after terrorist attacks across Paris on Nov. 13 that killed 130, and a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., earlier this month that killed 14.  
 
The White House acknowledged those calls, but said that "those who are most frequent in voicing those calls, do not themselves have alternative solutions that they have put on the table." 
 
Earnest specifically pointed to a tweet by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, which said, "If I'm elected president, we won’t weaken ISIS. We won’t degrade ISIS. We will utterly destroy ISIS." 
 
"Just to cite one example, I know that after the president delivered his address to the nation from the oval office, that — that Senator Cruz, in the thoughtful medium known as Twitter, suggested that if he were president of the United States, he would order the Department of Defense to destroy ISIL," Earnest said, using another acronym for ISIS.
 
"This, of course, is the mandate that the president has given for our entire national security team, and all of our allies and partners in the coalition since September of 2014," Earnest said.
 
"So, it's a pretty good illustration that we hear a lot of rhetoric, and a lot of — in some cases even outrageous claims, but not a lot of tangible or specific realistic alternatives."
 
The president has found himself in a difficult spot between critics calling for him to do more to destory ISIS, and supporters who fear another ground war in the Middle East.
 
The administration has said it would continue to assess the strategy and intensify efforts that are working, while insisting there has been no mission creep.
 
The president has also said that his promise not to put "boots on the ground" in Iraq and Syria referred to an "Iraq-style invasion" involving large-scale ground combat operations.
 
At a congressional hearing on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter floated the possibility of U.S. troops advising Iraqi forces in retaking Ramadi from ISIS, and deploying Apache attack helicopters in the fight — which would expose U.S. troops to more risk and bring them closer to combat.
 
And Carter said on Friday he expected the president would continue to ask him and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford for more proposals to "strengthen the execution of our strategy and hasten the defeat of ISIL."
 
"I expect him both to hear what we're doing, and continue to say what he's told me and General Dunford, certainly for the military campaign, which is that he wants us to continue to come to him with proposals for ways that we can strengthen the campaign consistent with our overall strategic approach," he said.
 
He also left open the possibility of the president deploying more troops. 
 
"With respect to overall numbers, the president has indicated and shown a willingness to increase that number," he said.