Republicans slammed President Barack Obama's admission Thursday that "we don't have a strategy yet" for battling the Islamic State (ISIS), saying it confirmed a longstanding problem with his foreign policy.
"The biggest problem is that the president has not articulated and overall strategy to contain radical Islam," former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra told Newsmax. "I'm sure the folks in the radical jihadist movement, they look at this and they're somewhat thrilled.
"We need a unified strategy to confront radical Islam," he said. "We can't continue to treat each one of these organizations, or each one of these threats, as an isolated event.
"These organizations have much more in common than what separates them," Hoekstra said.
The panel's current chairman, Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, told CNN that Obama has been talking with Iraq about the growing problems with Islamic extremists for more than a year.
"None of that fits," Rogers told Wolf Blizter. "After they took Mosul, you would think that they would have sat down for as long as it took to develop a strategy.
"This just tells you how far we have to go — and I'm just not sure the severity of the problem has sunk in with the administration just yet," Rogers added. "It was an odd press conference at the very best."
In a session with reporters at the White House, Obama admitted that his administration did not have a strategy for beating back the Islamic State, which last week beheaded American journalist James Foley and has driven hundreds of thousands of Christian minorities from their lands in Iraq.
"But I don't want to put the cart before the horse," the president said in response to a reporter's question on whether to seek congressional approval for expanding airstrikes in Iraq. "We don't have a strategy yet.
"I think what I've seen in some of the news reports suggest that folks are getting a little further ahead of what we're at than what we currently are.
"That's not just my assessment but the assessment of our military as well," he added. "We need to make sure we have clear plans, we are developing them. At that point, I will consult with Congress and make sure their voices are heard.
"But there's no point in me asking for action on the part of Congress before I know exactly what it is that is going to be required for us to get the job done."
President Obama spoke just before convening a meeting of his national security advisers to discuss the Pentagon's options for confronting ISIS. He cautioned, however, that any strategy would require more than military action and called for a broader effort that included political support from other countries in the region.
The U.S. is already striking Islamic State targets in Iraq, and officials have said the president is considering similar action in neighboring Syria in response to Foley's death on Aug. 19. The militants have moved with ease between the two countries, effectively blurring the border.
Obama said Thursday that his top priority remained stopping ISIS in Iraq, where he has said they pose a threat to U.S. personnel in Erbil and Baghdad. He said that if he were to expand that military mission, he would consult with Congress, which reconvenes on Sept. 9.
"The suggestion has been that we'll start moving forward imminently and somehow Congress, still out of town, will be left in the dark," Obama said. "That's not what's going to happen."
In response to Obama's remarks, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said GOP legislators wrote Obama last month calling on him to develop a plan to protect the United States and allied nations from ISIS. The president has not responded.
"The president needs to develop a regional strategy, working with our allies, to defeat ISIL and to use the full extent of his authorities to attack this enemy force," the Kentucky Republican said.
"The president needs to present this plan to the Congress, and the American people, and where the president believes he lacks authority to execute such a strategy, he needs to explain to the Congress how additional authority for the use of force will protect America.
"If the president is prepared to engage Congress with a strategic plan to protect the U.S. and our allies from ISIL, I believe he will have significant congressional support," McConnell added. "But, don’t forget, the threat from ISIL is real and it's growing — and it is time for President Obama to exercise some leadership in launching a response."
Texas GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert told Fox News, "He has never had a good strategy."
Gohmert said he would back any military action by Obama.
"Bomb the bad guys," he told Fox's Neil Cavuto. "That is ISIS, the radical Islamists. It's always been.
"A lot of us would be willing to have a declaration of war against the radicals, including al-Qaida, ISIS, all of these splinter groups, the ones in Libya," Gohmert said.
Hoekstra, who served eight House terms before stepping down to run unsuccessfully for Michigan governor in 2010, charged to Newsmax that a strategic approach was especially necessary as the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks neared.
"Whether it's al-Qaida, whether it's the groups in Libya, whether it's the groups in Africa, the groups in Syria and Iraq, the threat is essentially the same.
"We're approaching the 13th anniversary of 9/11 — and it's very, very disappointing that we've got a president who says, 'I really don't have a strategy,'" Hoekstra said.
The former congressman added that he was especially troubled because Obama did not address supplying more military weaponry to the Iraqi Kurds — or even humanitarian aid to the Christian minorities whom ISIS has terrorized.
"The Kurds can't wait," Hoekstra said. "The religious minorities, they can't wait. I hope the president is not delaying action on some of these things until he has the opportunity to develop an overall strategy. There are steps that need to be taken right now."
President Obama's comments also appeared to fly in the face of those made last week about ISIS by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey, Hoekstra observed.
Hagel last Thursday called ISIS "as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen. They're beyond just a terrorist group. This is beyond anything we've seen. We must prepare for everything."
A long-term strategy was being pursued against the Islamic State, Hagel said, because the threat had clearly been established.
Both the secretary and Dempsey said that ISIS must also be defeated in Syria
. Dempsey stressed that it was possible to "contain" the Islamic State, but not without there.
"You've got two of the president's top national security advisers saying that this is a severe and major threat," Hoekstra told Newsmax. "I agree with them and I believe them.
"Hagel and Dempsey are absolutely right. This is a threat, and the longer we wait, the tougher this problem gets with ISIS.
"This is a time for America to lead," Hoekstra said. "By saying that we don't have a strategy once again just lowers the viewpoint that the rest of the world has for America.
"They're used to an America that leads — and, once again, they're seeing an America that comes along too late."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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