The Obama administration isn’t ruling out airstrikes in Syria against a Sunni militant group that is on the march in Iraq.
“We don't restrict potential U.S. action to a specific geographic space,” a senior administration official said when asked whether military action could extend into Syria.
"The president's made clear time and again that we will take action as necessary, including direct U.S. military action, if it's necessary to defend the United States against an imminent threat," the official said.
President Obama on Thursday said he is sending 300 advisers to Iraq to help the country’s military battle back against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is rapidly taking territory. The president said the U.S. would be “prepared to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine the situation requires it.”
Officials said the U.S. is conducting manned and unmanned surveillance flights around the clock to track ISIS’s movements.
"Clearly we're focused on Iraq. That's where our ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] resources have surged. That's where we're working to develop additional intelligence," the official added.
"But the group [ISIS], again, operates broadly and we would not restrict our ability to take action that is necessary to protect the United States."
The official noted the U.S. has taken action in Yemen against the group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in Somalia against al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate there, and recently captured Abu Khatalla in Libya.
"So again, we're going to do what's necessary. Clearly we're focused on Iraq in terms of these additional resources and — but we'll continue to focus on the evolving threat of [ISIS] as we — as we consider different options," the official said.