White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said today that President Obama wants to defeat ISIS, articulating a major U.S. long-term military goal but offering little suggestion about how Obama would proceed to achieve it.
Instead, Earnest indicated the president’s focus remains at a tactical rather than a strategic level, attempting for the moment to safeguard U.S. personnel in the region and pursue the vaguely defined goal of protecting U.S. “national security” and “foreign policy interests.”
Earnest acknowledged only reluctantly – under sharp questioning at today’s White House briefing by Jim Acosta of CNN – that Obama wants to defeat ISIS
ACOSTA: Is the president’s strategy to defeat ISIL – to defeat ISIS?
EARNEST: First and foremost, Jim, the president’s strategy is to protect Americans who are in harm’s way . . . principally the president’s focused on protecting the national security of the United States of America, and in this case, protecting American personnel that are harms way
ACOSTA: If ISIS is a cancer (as Obama called it Tuesday), does he want to defeat it?
EARNEST: Well . . . of course, Jim. But the goal of this action, and what the president is focused on, as we pursue this strategy . . . is safeguarding the American people and putting the foreign policy interests of the United State first and foremost.
Earnest declined to say whether the United States will expand the current limited airstrikes in Iraq to Syria, and he gave little hint generally how far Obama will go deploying U.S. military assets.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified Jim Acosta. Apologies for the confusion.