President Barack Obama is due to get a briefing Wednesday on “operational details” of a military campaign to combat Islamic State militants.
The president will meet with General Lloyd Austin, the head of U.S. Central Command, to discuss the ongoing effort to build an international coalition to meet his stated goal of degrading and destroying the Islamic State group that has taken over parts of Iraq and Syria.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is also participating in the meeting, a day after he told a congressional panel that the effort is “complicated” and will take time. He also highlighted the need for “effective partners.”
General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the same panel that if he thought U.S. military advisers in Iraq needed to accompany Iraqi troops into battle, then he would ask Obama for approval.
No US ground troops
The president has repeatedly stated he will not send combat troops back to Iraq.
Obama pulled out the last U.S. ground forces from Iraq in 2011 after a nine-year war that toppled long-time Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Dempsey said U.S. advisers are acting “very much in a combat advisory role” and said there is currently “no intention” for them to engage in combat.
The United States has carried out more than 160 airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq. General Dempsey said Tuesday if U.S. pilots were shot down, ground troops would be deployed in a search and rescue mission.
Obama is asking Congress to approve funds to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels who are fighting against the Islamic State group in Syria as well as waging war against the Syrian government.
The president unveiled a four-part strategy to counter the Islamic State last week, including working to cut off terror funding and halting the flow of foreign fighters to the region. Those traveling to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside the militants include Americans.
US residents to Syria
Andrew Luger, the U.S. attorney for the state of Minnesota, said authorities there are investigating a number of men and women who have traveled to Syria to join militant groups.
Luger told VOA’s Somali service that more needs to be done to counter the “very clever” recruiters who use organized campaigns to entice people. He said videos and other online recruiting methods are not the means used to get recruits to travel.
“It can’t be just online and here is why: an 18-year-old boy who has never traveled before doesn’t get the idea of applying for a passport and buying a plane ticket that costs a thousand dollars on his own. Somebody is part of that,” Luger said.
“Somebody is giving him the money. Somebody is explaining to him where to go. So an 18-year-old boy doesn’t wake up one day and say, ‘I’m going to go to Turkey.’ Somebody is teaching them what to do,” he said.
Luger also said young people in his area, which is home to the largest ethnic Somali population in the U.S., need better education, job opportunities and engagement in order to avoid becoming disenfranchised and losing touch with their communities.