TAMPA -- President Barack Obama will meet with military leaders Wednesday at MacDill Air Force Base to talk strategy in the fight against Islamic State militants.
After a twenty-minute motorcade ride in the rain, Obama arrived for his morning meeting with the military commanders at U.S. Central Command. Photojournalists went in for a spray at the top of the meeting.
The CentComm campus is a series of tan adobe-looking buildings interspersed with palm trees. Pool is holding in building that houses the in-processing center while the president does his meeting.
The president is receiving a briefing from top commanders at CENTCOM who have been implementing the campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco are also participating in the briefing.
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Although careful not to use the word war in the language of his plan, the president and officials at U.S. Central Command will talk about an international effort to attack ISIS. Obama comes to MacDill as he continues to pressure Congress to approve a plan to allow the United States to train and arm Syrian rebels as part of the fight.
So far, the strategy does not involve putting U.S. troops on the ground but Gen. Martin Dempsey told Congress this week he may recommend ground forces if air strikes are not effective.
Obama was likely to get his wish in a vote Wednesday despite worries from hawks in both parties that his response was insufficient to battle terrorists who have overrun wide swaths of Iraq and Syria.
"If we want to open a front against (Islamic State forces) in Syria, we have to open a front. And I don't see any other way to do it than try to build an alternative force," said Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. "No one's excited about it but, you know, it's the best from a series of bad options."
Republican leaders have swung behind Obama's request, though they're not pressuring the GOP rank and file to follow suit. Top Democrats promised the measure would pass.
"I think there's a lot more that we need to be doing, but there's no reason for us not to do what the president asked us to do," Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California also supports the mission, as does Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The measure would send U.S. military trainers to Saudi Arabia to arm and train Syrian opponents of Islamic State militants, who have routed U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces repeatedly and threaten the viability of the government in Baghdad.
Obama has also vowed to use air power to strike Islamic State militants but has maintained repeatedly that American forces will not have a renewed ground combat mission in Iraq in this new phase of a long battle against terrorists.
U.S. Rep Kathy Castor, who was at MacDill to greet the president when Air Force One landed Tuesday evening, said she would rather spend money at home on roads and schools but understands the ISIS threat.
"The alternative is worse," Castor said. "The alternative is that we allow a safe haven to fester and grow in the Middle East and that will become a larger threat."
Information from the Associated Press and a pool covering the president was used in this report.