WASHINGTON, D.C.: President Barack Obama spent his first day back from August vacation on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) weighing his options against Islamic State (IS) militants—options that now include air strikes in Syria.
General Martin Dempsey, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, is preparing options for the president to address militants “both in Iraq and Syria with a variety of military tools, including air strikes,” a Pentagon spokesman said.
The spokesman, Colonel Ed Thomas, said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff believes the Islamic State “must be pressured both in Iraq and in Syria.”
The Pentagon has issued an order to plan for spy plane missions over Syria to support potential attacks against the Islamic State, according to a Defense Department official speaking on condition of anonymity.
The initiative to plan in–telligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions over Syria was contained in the execution order that allowed for the air strikes against IS targets in Iraq, the official said.
It’s unclear if those intelligence collection missions have begun.
The United States has launched 96 air strikes against Islamic State targets in northern and Western Iraq as of Sunday, with most targets near the Mosul Dam. Those strikes have not extended into Syria, where the Assad regime remains hostile and Russia has blocked United Nations approval of military action.
“The president has not made a decision to pursue any military action in Syria,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Monday before Obama met with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at the White House.
Those military actions are still in the planning stage, and it’s up to the Pentagon to come up with those plans, Earnest said.
“There are entire wings of that very large building that are dedicated to making sure the president has a range of plans and options that they can present to him if and when necessary,” he said.