White House Concerned About Kobani, but Not Sending Ground Troops

Smoke rises following Kobani airstrikes Wednesday. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke rises following Kobani airstrikes Wednesday. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)
Posted October 8, 2014 at 3:13pm

President Barack Obama isn’t about to send in ground troops to save the Syrian town of Kobani from being overrun by ISIS.  

That’s one takeaway from Wednesday’s briefing with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. The White House is “deeply concerned” about the town on the Syrian border with Turkey, but isn’t prepared to call it strategic and isn’t sure it will be able to hold out against the group, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State, despite stepped-up airstrikes by coalition forces.  

“The United States is taking airstrikes to limit the ability of ISIL to encroach on this community. The fact remains, however, that the limitations that are in place, meaning just airstrikes, limits our capabilities in this region,” Earnest said.
Earnest’s comment was surprisingly candid.  

The president’s decision not to move in with troops effectively means he’s prepared to let Kobani fall.  

Earnest noted that successful operations in Iraq were supported by troops on the ground.  

“Those airstrikes were conducted in support of ongoing ground operations. …That sort of ground operation doesn’t currently exist in Syria right now, and that will limit the effectiveness of the United States military to have the same kind of impact on the situation in Kobani.”  

Earnest took issue with a question about Kobani being an “acid test” of the president’s strategy, saying that in many other instances, the president’s strategy has been successful at rolling back ISIS in Iraq and in targeting its infrastructure.  

But he acknowledged the president’s strategy will take time.  

“The success of our broader strategy is contingent on an element that is not in place and that is a Syrian fighting force that can operate on the ground in Syria and take the fight to ISIL in their own country,” he said.  

Asked if the United States wants Turkey to intervene with ground troops, Earnest deferred to discussions that will be held with Turkey.