Overnight Defense

OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: White House: ISIS strategy working ‘overall’

THE TOPLINE: The White House is defending its strategy against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) days after the group’s takeover of Ramadi in Iraq.

Press secretary Josh Earnest urged critics ‘maintain perspective” and said Obama was weighing ways to “tweak” his strategy daily.

“Over the past four or five days … we have seen there are no quick fixes involved,” Earnest said Tuesday. “We have seen important progress that has been made, but there have also been periods of setback.”

{mosads}Asked if Obama’s strategy against ISIS has been a success, Earnest said, “overall, yes.”

On Monday, the White House called the fall of Ramadi a “setback.”

The Pentagon, on Tuesday, used tougher language, calling the fall of Ramadi to ISIS a “failure.” 

“It was a failure of a lot of things, leadership being one of the them, tactics being one of them,” said Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren. 

However, he added, “it’s important to note that war is a fluid thing, there’s victories, but the enemy does get a vote and in this case, the enemy was able to gain the upper hand in this case,” he said.  

He said all small pockets of remaining Iraqi forces had left the city early Tuesday. 

The fall of the city has raised questions about the Obama administration’s strategy of supporting Iraqi forces with airstrikes and training them to take back ground from ISIS. 

So far, about 7,000 Iraqi forces have been trained, with an additional 3,000 to 4,000 in the pipeline. The U.S. and coalition partners began training Iraqi forces in November.

Warren said the U.S. is not closely tracking where trained Iraqi forces are going, and did not know whether any of those trained were defending Ramadi. 

“We train them and turn them back over to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense for follow on deployments, so we don’t necessarily track with great fidelity precisely where each of these trained forces go,” he said. 

BOEHNER BURIES OBAMA’S WAR MEASURE. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said President Obama should junk his months-old war powers request against Islamic militants and start over.

“The president’s request for authorization of use of military force calls for less authority than he has today. Given the fight that we’re in, it’s irresponsible,” Boehner told reporters after the House GOP’s conference meeting.

He said President Obama should withdraw the AUMF that targets ISIS and its allies and “start over.”

Boehner and other Republicans spent months calling on Obama to send Congress an AUMF to battle the terror group. But when Obama finally sent up his war request in February, GOP lawmakers panned it, saying it lacked an overall strategy and was too restrictive of military commanders. Democrats also criticized it, saying it was too broad and could trap the U.S. in another Mideast war.

“I’ve been calling on the president to develop an overarching strategy to deal with the growing terrorist threat — we don’t have one,” Boehner said. “And the fact is the threat is growing faster than what we and our allies can do to stop it.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Intelligence committee who has called for a war vote on ISIS, said he was “increasingly discouraged” about congressional inaction.

HOUSE ROLLS OUT $579B PENTAGON SPENDING BILL. A key House panel unveiled a roughly $579 billion bill to fund the Defense Department for the next fiscal year.

The legislation provides about $24 billion more than in the current fiscal year, 2015, and $800 million above President Obama’s request, according to the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee.

For military personnel and their pay, the defense funding bill includes about $133 billion for more than 1,300,000 active-duty troops and more than 800,000 Guard and reserve troops. That is $225 million above the 2015 level and fully funds a 2.3 percent pay raise for the military rather than Obama’s request for a 1.3 percent increase.

If enacted, the Pentagon would get nearly $117 billion to procure equipment, which is about $13 billion above the current level and $3 billion above Obama’s request. The bill includes funding for the military to purchase Navy ships, guided missile destroyers, Blackhawk helicopters, tanker aircraft, F-35 aircraft and combat ships.

The bill would block funding from being used to transfer detainees held at Guantanamo Bay prison to U.S.-based facilities and keeps the Air Force’s A-10 “Warthog” fleet airborne for another year.

The subcommittee will mark up the bill behind closed doors on Wednesday.

BILL UNVEILED TO HONOR BENGHAZI VICTIMS: Retired Navy SEAL and Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke announced new legislation Monday evening to bestow Congressional Gold Medals on the four Americans killed in the September 2012 Benghazi attack.

“On September 11, 2012 America lost four patriots, and in the Navy SEALs we lost two brothers. This tribute is long overdue,” Zinke said on FOX News’ “On the Record.” 

Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith and two retired U.S. Navy SEALs working as CIA security contractors, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty, were killed in the attack at the CIA compound in Benghazi.

Woods was once under Zinke’s command, during his 23-year career with the Navy SEALs. He also knew Doherty, as well. 

Democratic Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.) is introducing the companion legislation in the Senate, according to a statement from Zinke’s office. 

Original co-sponsors of the House bill include Reps. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Chris Stewart (R-Utah) and David Rouzer (R-N.C.).

Zinke said honoring the four killed “should not be about politics.”

“It’s about paying respect and homage to American patriots who served our nation honorably in some of our darkest hours,” Zinke said. 


– Slain ISIS leader may have held American hostage

– Cotton blocks move to take up NSA reform bill

– Clinton: ‘I want those emails out

– Alleged plane hacker said he ‘messed with’ space station, satellites

– Feds charge six Chinese citizens with spying on Silicon Valley


Please send tips and comments to Kristina Wong, kwong@thehill.com, and Martin Matishak, mmatishak@thehill.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @thehill, @kristina_wong, @martinmatishak


Tags Adam Schiff Boehner Chris Stewart Ed Markey John Boehner

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