WASHINGTON – Dozens of partners have already joined the United States in the fight against the Islamic State group,Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday on Capitol Hill,bringing a mix of western nations and Arab states to the “coalition” President Barack Obama wants to assemble.
Forty countries have started to send ammunition,provided money and engaged in humanitarian efforts to combat the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State,Kerry told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. But it’s still unclear to the State Department what exact actions each of its partners will take.
“We’re still in the process of delineating who will do what,when,where and how,” Kerry said.
During the hearing,Kerry learned French President Francois Hollande had publically announced France would support the war against the Islamic State group by launching airstrikes in Iraq.
Kerry also said there were at least seven Arab groups with thousands of fighters who are already fighting the Islamic State group. He expects they will join the U.S. efforts.
“We believe as this global coalition comes together determined to take on ISIL,that the organizing principle in the region – which is success breeds success – you’re going to begin to see more people saying,‘We’re on your side,’” he said.
As the administration seeks to gain allies and organize these Arab groups,Kerry made it clear he does not view the Islamic State group as Islamic,even as a radical faction. He repeatedly labeled the Islamic State group the “enemy of Islam.”
“They can call themselves what they want to call themselves,” he said. “We shouldn’t compound the sin by calling them what they’re not. They’re not a state,and they do not represent Islam.”
Kerry’s testimony came one day after the House voted to authorize arming and training moderate Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State group in Syria.
After listening to Kerry’s testimony,Rep. Elliot Engel,D-N.Y.,said bringing local partners into the fight is key to making sure U.S. military action isn’t viewed as a Western country again invading yet another Arab country to make regime change.
Even with the risks of launching another military campaign in the Middle East,Engel said the alternative is worse.
“If we do nothing,we know what’s going to happen: ISIL will grow and kill more people and become a direct threat to the homeland,” he said in an interview after the hearing. “And that’s why I think there are only bad choices. But the worst choice is to do nothing.”
The vote by the House on Wednesday didn’t authorize an American war in the region – the Obama administration maintains it can do that without congressional approval – but it allowed the president to go forward with his plan of aiding foreign fighters in a mission to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State group.
The decision,which came as an amendment to a bill that would temporarily fund the government through mid-December,was a rare decisive and bipartisan one. The majority of members in both the Democratic and Republican parties were in favor of authorizing the president’s plan,and the amendment passed 273-156.
But that vote came amid some confusion over whether American forces could potentially join local forces in a combat role in the Middle East.
On Tuesday,Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey raised questions about the president’s commitment to keep American forces out of combat in the Middle East. In a Senate committee hearing,he said changing circumstances could lead him to advise the president to send ground troops to the region.
The president quickly quashed the possibility,speaking to American military members at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa,Fla.
“I want to be clear: The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission,” he said. “They will support Iraqi forces on the ground as they fight for their own country against these terrorists.”
Kerry also denied there is any plan to have American troops engage in combat,telling the House committee that Americans would be “be training and assisting … but they will not have a combat role.”
Reach reporter Sean McMinn at [email protected] or 202-408-1488. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.