OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: House approves $750M to fight Ebola

THE TOPLINE: The House Armed Services Committee and Appropriations subcommittee on Defense lifted their hold Thursday on $750 million for Ebola response efforts.

The only remaining hurdle is the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has placed restrictions on the requested spending.

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“The world is facing a severe global health crisis emanating from West Africa. The United States is stepping up to lead the international response to the Ebola outbreak and Congress will ensure that the President’s request is fully and quickly funded," Appropriations subcommittee Chairman Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney FrelinghuysenCoal’s clout in Congress to take a hit House passes 6B defense spending bill House panel advances 5B defense bill MORE (R-N.J.) said in a statement.

The two panels had approved the Pentagon's request to transfer $1 billion from its war-funding account to use for the Ebola crisis, but placed limits on the amount that could be spent until the administration submitted a detailed response plan.

"While I maintain concerns, particularly regarding the safety and security of our military personnel supporting this mission, DOD has provided us with much of their force protection plan and the other information requested," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said in a statement Thursday.

The Pentagon plans to send as many as 4,000 U.S. troops to West Africa to help run testing laboratories, build treatment centers, train healthcare workers, and provide assistance with transportation and other logistics.

“In the weeks and months ahead, we will work to assure that our troops are well protected from the Ebola virus as well as any other circumstances that might impact their personal security as they carry out this important mission,” Frelinghuysen said.

However, the funding still needs to clear the Senate Armed Services Committee, where ranking member Sen. James InhofeJames InhofeMenendez rails against Puerto Rico bill for 4 hours on floor EPA proposes climate rule incentives despite court hold GOP chairman: EPA could ‘restructure every industrial sector’ MORE (R-Okla.), has withheld approval, saying that it would add demands on a defense budget already stretched thin.

"The President can’t on one hand continue to ask our military men and women to do it all while on the other hand slashing their funding and dismantling their ability to defend the nation and return home safely to their loved ones," Inhofe said in a statement Thursday. 

 

US CONTINUES STRIKES NEAR KOBANI: The U.S. continued airstrikes near Kobani on Thursday, as the town’s Kurds fought Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants who are threatening to take over the northern Syrian border town. 

Using bombers, the U.S. conducted at least nine airstrikes near Kobani on Thursday.  Six airstrikes were conducted south of the town, destroying two ISIS-held buildings, a tank, a heavy machine gun, and damaging a militant fighting position. The attacks also targeted two groups of ISIS fighters.

Another three airstrikes north of Kobani struck two small ISIS units and destroyed two buildings held by militants.

So far, the U.S. has conducted at least 46 strikes near Kobani, according to U.S. Central Command (Centcom). 

Fears have grown that ISIS could capture the town near the Turkish border.

"U.S. Central Command continues to monitor the situation in Kobani closely. Indications are that Kurdish militia there continue to control most of the city and are holding out against ISIL," Centcom said in a statement Thursday, using an alternate name for the terror group.

The increased U.S. airstrikes near Kobani came as retired Marine Gen. John Allen and his deputy Ambassador Brett McGurk met with Turkish officials to try to secure more military support. Allen is coordinating the international coalition against ISIS.

Earlier in the week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Kobani was about to fall to ISIS. But Turkish officials said Thursday that they cannot be expected to conduct a ground operation on their own to save the town. 

"It's not realistic to expect that Turkey will lead a ground operation on its own," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday, according to Voice of America. 

He said any intervention would have to be part of a broader action to create a buffer along with no-fly zones along Syria's border with Turkey. 

Turkey is also refusing to allow the U.S. and partners to use its airbases for strikes against ISIS, causing frustration in Washington. 

Republicans pointed at ISIS's recent gains in Iraq and in Kobani to show that the president's airstrike campaign was not working. 

“With two months now of airstrikes, the president's strategy clearly isn't working. ISIL continues to grow, gobble up more territory from Baghdad to Kobani,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said Thursday.

“They keep moving. They get stronger. The president gave a speech a couple months ago of how serious the threat is and how we were going to degrade and destroy them. Well, we're not,” he said on Fox News. 

Defense officials are urging patience from the American public, saying it is too soon to tell if the strategy is working. 

Some military experts said the strategy is clearly not working, and that the president should dramatically expand airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. 

“You can see that they’re expanding their area of control. ... This is in no way destroying or defeating ISIS. All it’s doing is forcing them to adapt,” said David Kilcullen, counterinsurgency and senior fellow at the left-leaning New America Foundation. 

Kilcullen, who served with the State Department as a senior adviser to retired Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq in 2007, said it would take “months to years” to build capable local ground forces in Iraq and Syria, and that U.S. advisers should be able to accompany those forces into battle. 

“In fact, without some kind of significant ground force, an air campaign alone is actually going to improve the enemy’s quality by killing the stupid and unlucky ones and bringing more talented and savvy guys to the fore,” he said. 

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: 

— Panetta: Obama should call back Congress to authorize ISIS fight 

— Vitter to Obama: Stop ISIS from killing Christians

— NSA: List of official leaks to the media is classified

— Shaheen: We must ‘eliminate’ Syria’s chemical weapons

 

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