President Obama made just his third Oval Office address to the American people this past Sunday to explain the administration’s strategy against ISIS — and after meeting with his advisers first thing next week, he’ll be back in front of the cameras offering another explanation.
Obama will be at the Pentagon on Monday to, according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest, “chair a National Security Council meeting on the counter ISIL campaign.”
“You’re going to receive an update from the president’s national security team on the campaign to degrade and destroy that terrorist organization,” Earnest told reporters at today’s briefing. “After the meeting, the president will make a statement from the Pentagon briefing room.”
Unlike his Oval Office statement, Obama might take a couple of questions from reporters in this setting. “That is not part of the plan, but I wouldn’t rule it out,” Earnest said, adding that the presser should be viewed as “an update.”
“But as you know, the president has tasked his team with constantly assessing the performance of different aspects of our strategy,” he continued. “And if there’s an opportunity for us to intensify efforts behind one aspect of our strategy, then that is something that he wants his team to be prepared to do. So, you know, we have done this in a couple of ways, we’ve, you know, ramped our assistance to some of the opposition fighters in Syria, and we have made recent announcements about activities that some special operators, U.S. special operators in Iraq could carry out.”
“It would be an intensification of some elements of our strategy that have yielded some progress in the past. So my point is, they’re always assessing whether or not there are some intensifications that can be used to benefit our strategy, but there is no specific announcement of a change that I know of that’s planned for Monday, but we will see what the meeting yields.”
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee this week that if there was another attack on the United States, perhaps of a Paris magnitude, he wouldn’t have a new strategy to offer the president.
“If I had more to recommend to him to accelerate the defeat of ISIL in Syria and Iraq, I would be doing that now,” Carter told lawmakers.
Today at the Pentagon, Carter said the department intends “to take more” steps “to strengthen the execution of our strategy and hasten the defeat of ISIL.”
“And the president will be here in the Pentagon on Monday, and he’ll hear not only from us here in the Defense Department, his senior commanders in the field, about the military dimensions of the campaign to defeat ISIL, but also this is a National Security Council meeting,” he continued. “So the secretary of State and representatives of the intelligence community, law enforcement, homeland security, all of the parts that we know are necessary to protect our people, and strike at our enemies, will be involved.”
“And I expect him both to hear what we’re doing, and continue to say what he’s told me and [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] General Dunford, certainly for the military campaign, which is that he wants us to continue to come to him with proposals for ways that we can strengthen the campaign consistent with our overall strategic approach.”
Carter added: “I expect in a week and two weeks and six weeks and so forth for us to be doing more and building more capability, and having more and more impact every week. That’s the whole idea.”
“That’s what President Obama has asked us to do, and that’s what we’ve been able to do and will continue to do.”
Obama’s conversations with other world leaders this week, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, focused on the ongoing Paris climate negotiations. A readout of a Thursday call with French President Francois Hollande focused on climate change except for the last sentence: “President Obama also thanked President Hollande for sending the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to the Persian Gulf to undertake Counter-ISIL naval strike operations.”