Kerry: US ‘will not go it alone’ against ISIS

Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryThe Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary Democrats debate how to defeat Trump: fight or heal GOP senators press State Department for Hunter Biden, Burisma records MORE assured lawmakers that the U.S. “will not go it alone” against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Senators on Wednesday grilled Kerry on the administration’s plan to arm Syrian rebels, just hours before the House voted on a measure to authorize training and equipping vetted groups.


"Our strategy is centered on a global coalition," Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "The United States will not go it alone. And that is why we are building a coalition, a global coalition." 

Lawmakers, though, questioned the commitments made by allies and if the Syrian groups were strong enough to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Kerry admitted that no other countries had agreed to put boots on the ground, leading to concerns over who would lead the Syrian rebels.

"At this moment no country has been asked to put boots on the ground,” said Kerry. “We don't think it's a good idea right now."

The response sparked incredulity from Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing GOP senators frustrated with Romney jabs at Trump MORE (R-Tenn.), ranking Republican on the committee. 

"It doesn't seem real to me," Corker said. "We know that [the moderate Syrian opposition] cannot take on [ISIS]." 

Corker said it could take years to build up Syrian rebels to take on the terrorist group.

"We're talking about a multi-year process. We're talking about decades," Corker said. "Today it's our entire ground game [and] their focus has been on taking out [Syrian leader Bashar] Assad."  

"We're relying on a military strategy built on rebels," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) during Wednesday's hearing. 

Some military officials say capable ground troops will be needed in Syria to direct airstrikes against ISIS and provide guidance to rebel forces. 

"If you're asking me how does the opposition in Syria finally prevail against ISIL, I think it's gonna require the assistance of in particular Jordanians and probably some of the Syrian Kurds and probably the Turks," Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told lawmakers Tuesday, using another name for the group.

Kerry sought to assure lawmakers that the U.S. had the support of some Arab countries, which he painted as essential to avoid framing the fight as one between the west and Islam. 

He said that an Arab country has pledged to help conduct air strikes against the terror group.  Kerry added that more than 50 countries have agreed on "doing something," and that more could join the coalition during the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week.

He added that retired Marine Gen. John Allen, who is leading the U.S.'s efforts against ISIS, would decide exactly how each country would contribute.

But, Kerry added, "We don't need every country to engage in that kind of military action, and frankly we are not asking them, and we don't want every country to do that."  

"When we say global coalition, we mean it," he said. 

Relying on Syrian opposition forces to fight ISIS also faces scrutiny from Democrats who said they don’t trust those groups.

"I am not confident we know who our allies are," Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinFormer coal exec Don Blankenship launches third-party presidential bid Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics MORE (D-W.Va.) said in a Senate floor speech Wednesday, citing reports that moderate forces had sold beheaded American journalist Steven Sotloff to ISIS. "Are those people our allies?

"Syria's neighbors have a technical ability and the financial resources to support and train the Syrian opposition forces," he added, calling for other nations to step up. "It's their neighborhood, and theirs to defend."

Manchin said the U.S. only had "hints of military support from Arab countries. who themselves face a greater threat from ISIS than any one of us."