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In the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris, the White House is promising an “intensification of our efforts” in the fight against ISIS.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press”, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes called ISIS a “different type of terrorist enemy” and said the White House has been “clear-eyed about the threat that we face.” Rhodes added the Administration would analyze what has worked, and what hasn’t in its strategy so far. In a later conversation off-camera, Rhodes clarified that the U.S. will look to intensify the air campaign and increase direct support for local forces on the ground, which could include weaponry. There could also be more targeting of ISIS leadership, but the White House does not believe more U.S. troops is the answer to the problem.
Rhodes agreed with the President of France when characterizing the Paris attacks as “an act of war” adding “we’ve been at war with [ISIS] for some time.”
President Obama has faced heavy criticism for comments he made this week prior to the terrorist attack in Paris, that ISIS has been “contained.” Rhodes explained the President was “referring very specifically to the question of ISIL’s geographic expansion in Iraq and Syria” anad that the U.S. and partners were able to halt that expansion. He cited the recent operation to re-take the town of Sinjar in Iraq as an example of this.
On Syria, Rhodes said that the White House “sees Assad as part of the problem, too.” When asked if the timetable for political change in Syria, announced in Vienna by Secretary of State John Kerry, meant the U.S. accepted Assad staying in power while nations shift their focus to ISIS, Rhodes responded, “What we’ve been very clear about is that Assad has to leave as part of that transition. There may be a period of time when that transition is being negotiated between the regime and the opposition, before he leaves power, but he will have to leave power as part of that transition.”
A flashpoint of the political debate in the United States in recent days has been over allowing Syrian refugees into the country. Rhodes explained the U.S. has “very extensive screening procedures for all Syrian refugees.” He added that these are people who have “suffered the horrors of war – women and children, orphans. We can’t just shut our doors to those people. We need to sort out how to focus on the terrorists that we need to keep out of the country, but I think we do need to do our part to take those refugees who are in need.”