“I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, we don’t have a strategy yet,” Obama said in a press conference Thursday of seeking congressional approval for additional airstrikes in the Middle East.
Obama has been under pressure to expand U.S. bombings from Iraq to Syria, but his advisers remain divided about the prospect of military intervention there.
For his part, the president seemed to suggest Thursday that he was less interested in using military action in Syria than Iraq.
“My priority at this point,” Obama said, “is to make sure the gains that [ISIS] made in Iraq are rolled back.”
The president on Thursday also announced that Secretary of State John Kerry would soon travel to the region to build an opposition coalition to counter ISIS. Obama said he would review a series of options for U.S. responses in Iraq and Syria, plans now being developed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Lawmakers have long been pressing the White House for a clearer blueprint on how to limit the spread of ISIS. But the president, at least thus far, is not yet ready to appease them.
Republicans were quick to pounce on Obama for not having a concrete plan to present them.
"If the president is prepared to engage Congress with a strategic plan to protect the U.S. and our allies from [ISIS], I believe he will have significant congressional support," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "But don’t forget, the threat from [ISIS] is real and it’s growing—and it is time for President Obama to exercise some leadership in launching a response.”
This article was first posted at 4:48 p.m. and has since been updated.