Hemmer Presses Pentagon Spox: 'What Good Are Syria Airstrikes Without Any Ground Troops?'
Bill Hemmer pressed Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby this morning on how ISIS will be defeated in Syria using airstrikes alone.
"Are we taking out buildings or are we killing terrorists?" he asked.
Kirby said right now the strikes are focused on ISIS' infrastructure and command and control, not "chasing them down sidewalks."
Hemmer then asked whether the amount of targets taken out - 14 on the first night of strikes - is really enough to make an impact.
Kirby answered that the strikes are still being assessed and that the targets were "valuable" to ISIS. He acknowledged that the effort against ISIS is going to take a long time and require more than just "military power."
On Iraq, Hemmer pointed out a New York Times report Monday that airstrikes have failed to "dislodge ISIS" and that Sunni tribes are not joining the fight against the terrorist army.
Here's a portion of the report:
Although the airstrikes appear to have stopped the extremists’ march toward Baghdad, the Islamic State is still dealing humiliating blows to the Iraqi Army. On Monday, the government acknowledged that it had lost control of the small town of Sichar and lost contact with several hundred of its soldiers who had been besieged for nearly a week at a camp north of the Islamic State stronghold of Falluja, in Anbar Province.
By midday, there were reports that hundreds of soldiers had been killed there in battle or mass executions. Ali Bedairi, a lawmaker from the governing alliance, said more than 300 soldiers had died after the loss of the base, Camp Saqlawiya. The prime minister ordered the arrest of the responsible officers, although a military spokesman put the death toll at just 40 and said 68 were missing.
“They did not have any food, and they were starving for four days,” a soldier who said he was one of 200 who managed to escape said in a videotaped statement that he circulated online. “We drank salty water; we could not even run.”
Behind the government’s struggles on the battlefield is the absence or resistance of many of the Sunni Muslim tribes that officials in Baghdad and Washington hope will play the decisive role in the course of the fight — a slow start for the centerpiece of President Obama’s plan to drive out the militants.
Hemmer noted that not much information is coming out of Iraq following the beheadings of journalists by ISIS.
Kirby said Iraq is still a "mixed picture," but argued that Iraqi forces have retaken two key dams and protected Baghdad.
“The strategy’s not wrong, but it needs time to work. ... This isn’t something that we’re just going to fix in a couple of nights of airstrikes, or even a couple of months of airstrikes. In fact, airstrikes alone aren’t going to be enough. Military power’s not going to be enough. This is going to take a while," said Kirby, noting that "good governance" is needed in both countries.
Watch the full interview above.