Obama Holds ISIS Strategy Session at Pentagon

President Barack Obama

President Obama met with the head of the U.S. Central Command and other defense leaders at the Pentagon Wednesday to review the airpower campaign in Iraq and Syria that critics say has met with only mixed success.

"We've been honest about the limits of airpower" in combating the militants of the Islamic State, Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said prior to the late afternoon meeting with CentCom Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin, other combatant commanders, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Kirby denied that the campaign has been a failure thus far but acknowledged that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters "haven't given up a whole heckuva lot of ground" despite the bombing that began in Iraq on Aug. 8 and was extended into Syria on Sept. 23.

However, "we're not expecting any change to our strategy" to come out of the Pentagon meeting on the effort to "degrade and destroy" ISIS through airstrikes and advising local forces to take back territory, Kirby said.

He repeated the White House prohibition against "boots on the ground," saying that "there will not be a return of U.S. ground forces" to lead the fight against ISIS.

In remarks after the meeting, Obama said that the campaign against ISIS would be long and difficult.

"Our strikes continue alongside our partners. It remains a difficult mission," Obama said. "As I've indicated from the start, this is not something that is going to be solved overnight."

Obama said the good news was "that there is a broad-based consensus not just in the region but among nations of the world that ISIL (another acronym for ISIS) is a threat to world peace, security and order, that their barbaric behavior has to be dealt with."

The Pentagon session came as ISIS fighters pressed their three-week assault on Kurdish defenders of the northern Syrian border town of Kobani despite a series of U.S. airstrikes.

"We're doing everything we can from the air," Kirby said. "It's not like we ignored this crisis around the town of Kobani."

In a visit to a Syrian refugee camp, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said "Kobani is about to fall," NBC News reported. Erdogan said the plight of Kobani demonstrated that the problem of ISIS "cannot be solved via air bombardment."

Erdogan repeated demands that the U.S. help in creating a buffer zone along the border with Syria, and imposed a no-fly zone over Syria against President Bashar al-Assad.

At the Pentagon, Kirby said that a buffer zone and a no-fly zone were "not on the table as a military option that we're considering."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@monster.com

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