Congress may have quickly authorized President Obama’s proposal to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels in an effort to defeat the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. But implementing that plan will take months, according to National Security Adviser Susan Rice.
Rice told reporters Friday at the White House that that she’s grateful for the green light from Congress, but training sites still need to be built and the Syrian opposition will have to be vetted.
“We will move out as rapidly as can be done in partnership with counties that will host the training facilities …This is not going to happen overnight,” she said, adding, “It is not something that one should expect will yield rapid and immediate fruit … it will take many months”
The Senate voted 78-22 to approve Obama’s plan to equip the rebels with a 78-22 vote. There was significant opposition from both parties – 12 Republicans, 9 Democrats and one Independent voted against the legislation. The House was also divided, with 71 Republicans and 85 Democrats voting against the measure, which passed 273-156 on Wednesday.
President Obama signed the measure on Friday.
While lawmakers agree that ISIS is a threat to America, several members of Congress on both sides of the political aisle have expressed concerns that weapons given to the rebels could end up in the hands of terrorists. Others say Obama’s plans do not go far enough while some are concerned about the U.S. getting embroiled in yet another war.
At Friday’s briefing Rice also told reporters that the U.S. is “prepared to go ahead” with airstrikes in Syria but would not say when.
“I’m not going to preview from the podium when that will happen,” she said.
The U.S. has already engaged in airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq. U.S. Central Command announced on Friday that it conducted two airstrikes in Iraq on Thursday and Friday. Those attacks destroyed a boat on the Euphrates River resupplying ISIS forces and a small ISIS ground unit. CENTCOM said it has launched a total of 178 airstrikes in Iraq since the U.S. intervened on Aug. 7.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been traveling in the Middle East trying to encourage Arab allies to join the global coalition to fight ISIS, was in New York to chair a ministerial debate on the escalating situation in Iraq at the United Nations Security Council.
“The fact is there is a role for nearly every country in the world to play, including Iran whose foreign minister is here with us today,” Kerry said.
“If left unchecked these [ISIS] terrorists certainly would propose a growing threat beyond the region because they have already promised to,” he added.