US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (unseen) on September 13, 2014 at the Fairmont Heliopolis Hotel in the capital Cairo. Kerry arrived in Cairo on the latest leg of a regional tour to forge a coalition against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria.
Kerry: Countries prepared to fight ISIS
01:52 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Countries inside and outside the region are willing to aid in strikes against ISIS, Kerry said

Kerry admitted that airstrikes alone will not solve the challenge of defeating ISIS

"We're not looking to put troops on the ground," Kerry said

CNN  — 

Secretary of State John Kerry closed a trip to the Middle East saying countries “in the region” and “outside the region” are prepared to engage in military assistance against ISIS and “in actual strikes if that is what it requires.” Critics have said Kerry’s efforts to build an international coalition of Arab and European nations to fight ISIS were struggling.

In an interview taped Saturday in Cairo, Egypt, that aired on CBS’ “Face The Nation” Sunday, Kerry said some nations “are clearly prepared to take action in the air alongside the United States and to do airstrikes, if that’s what they’re called on to do,” but did not get more specific.

Separately, a U.S. official traveling with Kerry told reporters, “There have been offers to (U.S. Central Command) from Arab countries willing to take more kinetic actions,” according to a pool report.

On CBS, Kerry admitted that airstrikes alone will not solve the challenge of defeating ISIS, but he reiterated the administration’s stance that there is no plan to put troops on the ground outside of local Iraqi forces and Syrian rebel groups.

“Well, we’re not looking to put troops on the ground. There are some (nations) who have offered to do so, but we are not looking for that at this moment anyway,” Kerry said.

Integral to the White House strategy is an effort to train and equip Syrian rebel forces.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said: “We have had a relationship with these fighters now for a couple of years. They’re getting better and more capable. And what’s most important here is that the Syrian opposition on the ground fighting ISIL can count on American and coalition airpower to supercharge their effort. That’s important and that’s ultimately going to be what is called for in this strategy.” ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State, is also known by the acronym ISIL.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who advocates using U.S. special forces if needed to fight ISIS, was harshly critical of the Obama administration on “Fox News Sunday.”

“I will not let this president suggest to the American people we can outsource our security. And this is not about our safety – there is no way in hell you can form an army on the ground to go into Syria to destroy ISIL without a substantial American component,” Graham said.

“This is a turning point in the war on terror. We are fighting a terrorist army, not an organization,” Graham said. “It’s going to take an army to beat an army, and this idea that we’ll never have any boots on the ground to defeat them in Syria is fantasy.”

“This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home,” Graham said.

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