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White House On IS Gains: ‘The Strategy Is Succeeding’ But ‘Airstrikes Will Only Do So Much’

• October 14, 2014 1:41 pm

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White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that the U.S. Strategy against the Islamic State is "succeeding" but admitted that "airstrikes will only do so much."

"The early evidence indicates that this strategy is succeeding" against IS (commonly known as ISIL or ISIS) Earnest told CBS White House correspondent Major Garrett, who quickly took him to task.

"Kobani, if it falls, will be the third city on the Syrian-Turkish border to do so. Anbar is now 80 percent controlled by ISIS; they are 15 miles away from Baghdad," Garrett said. "That doesn't read to many analysts like success. Why does it look like success to this administration?"

Earnest refused to back down from the White House characterizations of the anti-IS military operation as a "success."

"There are specific episodes where the use of military force has succeeded in beating back an ISIL advance or stopping the siege of a vulnerable humanitarian target," Earnest said.

"I don't think anybody has sought to leave you or anybody else with the impression that these kinds of airstrikes were going to dramatically reverse the situation on the battlefield over night. They won't."

Earnest repeated his claim from last Wednesday that the U.S. strategy was reliant on "something that is not yet in place" (a moderate Syrian opposition that has yet to be identified, much less trained) and that President Obama's decision to prohibit U.S. ground troops was a "strategic decision."

Earnest said the administration does not want to see Kobani fall, but said the U.S. ability to prevent it from falling is "limited."

"We certainly do not want the town to fall," Earnest said. "At the same time, our capacity to prevent that town from falling is limited by the fact that airstrikes can only do so much."

Published under: Islamic State, Josh Earnest