The PJ Tatler

Boehner Backs Obama on Training Syrian Opposition; Caucus Needs Time to Decide on Rest of Plan

Declaring “an F-16 is not a strategy,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) t0ld reporters at a press conference today that Republican leaders will “make a decision sometime next week on how we will proceed” with President Obama’s ISIS plans at the congressional level.

“I support the president’s plan to train and equip Iraqi security forces and the Syrian opposition. But I remain concerned that those measures could take years to fully implement, at a time when ISIL’s momentum and territorial gains must be halted and reversed immediately,” Boehner said of the “questions and concerns” that remain after last night’s speech.

“We stand ready to work with the president to put in place a plan that would destroy and defeat ISIL. Members are getting briefed as we speak on a range of options that the president is contemplating. Those briefings and consultations will continue,” he said.

Boehner said he believes “it’s in the institution of the Congress’ interest to speak on this question” of what intervention will look like.

“Now, normally in such a case, I’ve been through this a few times over the 24 years that I’ve been here, the president of the United States would request that support and would supply the wording of a resolution to authorize this force. And, at this point in time, we’ve not gotten that request and we’ve not seen that language,” the Speaker said.

“I think that we’re at the beginning stages of building of the kind of support that’s necessary from the nation to carry out this plan and to carry it out successfully.”

Boehner said “the only request that has come from the White House at this point” is the Title X authorization to train and equip Syrian rebels under the Defense Department instead of the CIA.

“I can tell you, in our conversations this morning, a lot of our members don’t feel like the — the campaign that was outlined last night will accomplish the mission that the president says, and that is to destroy ISIL,” he added. “And so frankly, a lot of our members think a lot more needs to be done than what was laid out last night.”

Congressional leaders went to the White House on Tuesday to discuss what the president would be asking for. Boehner said Obama made his “specific request to have the ability to train Syrian rebels” at that meeting.

“I wanted to make sure that members have ample time to have the conversation about this — started today — and it will continue,” he said.

“…Based on all the information that I’ve looked at, the Free Syrian Army has, by and large, been very well vetted by our intelligence officials. Today they’re in a fight against Assad, they’re in a fight against ISIL, and they’re in a fight against another al-Qaeda affiliate in eastern Syria. And  they’re about to get run over.”

The Speaker stressed that “airstrikes alone will not accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish.”

“And the president’s made clear that he doesn’t want U.S. boots on the ground. Well, somebody’s boots have to be on the ground,” Boehner said. “And so I do believe that what the president has asked for as the commander in chief is this authority to train these Syrian rebels, and frankly we ought to give the president what he’s asking for.”

Boehner was asked if Obama should have publicly taken any chance of troops off the table.

“Listen, we only have one commander in chief. He laid out his plan. I would never tell the enemy what I was willing to do or unwilling to do. But he is the commander in chief. He made that decision,” he replied. “At this point in time, it’s important we give the president what he’s asking for. And — and we’ve got to keep our eye on the ball. The issue here is about defeating a terrorist threat that is real and imminent.”