Obama to visit Pentagon for ISIS update

Obama to visit Pentagon for ISIS update
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President Obama will travel to the Pentagon Monday to be briefed on the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as the U.S. tries to erase gains made by the group in recent months.

Obama plans to meet with his national security team and speak on the subject in the afternoon, according to the White House. He is expected to be briefed on the war by Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, among others.

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The president's rare visit to the Pentagon comes as he is deepening the U.S. military's involvement in Iraq to help drive back ISIS forces.

Last month, Obama announced he would send an additional 450 military personnel to train and advise local fighters attempting to retake the Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar province, which fell to ISIS in May in an embarrassing loss for the Iraqi military. 

That brings the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq to 3,550, although the White House stresses none are fighting as "boots on the ground."

The Obama administration is reportedly considering creating a network of bases around the country to help accelerate training of Iraqi forces and Sunni tribal fighters, which has lagged in recent months. The U.S. already opened a new training facility at Al Taqaddum Air Base in Anbar.

The U.S. is also stepping up airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq. The American-led coalition reportedly launched 18 airstrikes over the weekend in Raqqa, ISIS's base of power in Syria. It also carried out 26 strikes in Iraq.

A string of terror attacks last week has also raised concerns about ISIS's capability to inspire lone-wolf attacks around the world. The group claimed responsibility for an attack on a resort hotel in Tunisia that killed 38 people and the bombing of a Kuwaiti mosque that killed 25.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said the meeting with military leaders should lead the president to conclude his strategy to defeat ISIS "isn't working."

"From Libya and Tunisia, to Afghanistan, ISIL continues to advance while we lose ground and time. I hope that the President will acknowledge these realities, end the veto threats on bills that would enhance his ability to take the fight to ISIL, and rethink his own inadequate strategy," Thornberry said, using another name for ISIS.

Ahead of the president’s visit to the Pentagon, the White House slammed Senate Republicans for not taking up the nomination of Adam Szubin to be the new terrorism sanctions czar at the Treasury Department.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest called Szubin a key player in the fight against ISIS and called on the Senate to confirm him before lawmakers leave for the August recess. He singled out Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) for not scheduling a confirmation hearing and accused Republicans of allowing “political considerations to trump national security.”

“The president will be meeting with a group of individuals in the Pentagon who are doing their jobs to keep the American people safe,” Earnest said. “Well, now it's time for Republicans in the Senate to do their jobs for a change.”

Obama nominated Szubin in mid-April to replace David Cohen, who left the post to serve as deputy director of the CIA. Szubin has served as acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes since Cohen left in February.

— Kristina Wong contributed. This story was last updated at 2:12 p.m.