Obama, Holland Talks Muddied by Turkey 11/24 11:02
Standing in solidarity after the Paris attacks, President Barack Obama and
French President Francois Hollande opened talks Tuesday about expanding the
international campaign against the Islamic State, an effort likely to be
complicated by Turkey's shootdown of a Russian warplane.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Standing in solidarity after the Paris attacks, President
Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande opened talks Tuesday about
expanding the international campaign against the Islamic State, an effort
likely to be complicated by Turkey's shootdown of a Russian warplane.
Hollande's trip to Washington is part of a diplomatic push to get the U.S.
and other nations to bolster efforts to destroy the militant group that has
claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks. The French president planned to
urge Obama to work with Russia to build a new coalition to fight the extremists.
Even before the incident between Turkey and Russia, Hollande faced a tough
challenge in getting Obama to agree to a partnership with Moscow. The U.S. is
deeply skeptical of President Vladimir Putin's motivations, given his
longstanding support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Obama and Hollande did not comment on the downing of the Russian plane as
they appeared briefly before reporters Tuesday morning. The two leaders were to
hold a joint news conference after their private talks.
U.S. forces were not involved in the air incident, according to an American
military official, who was not authorized to discuss the incident publicly and
so spoke on condition of anonymity.
Nearly five years of clashes between Assad's government and rebel forces
have created a vacuum that has allowed the Islamic State to thrive. The group
appears to now be focusing on targets outside its base in Syria and Iraq,
including attacks in Lebanon and Turkey and the downing of a Russian airliner
Given the rash of attacks, Obama is now facing increased pressure at home
and abroad to ramp up U.S. efforts to destroy the militants. So far, Obama is
resisting calls to significantly escalate his approach, and instead is focused
on getting other countries to offer more counterintelligence, humanitarian and
"The United States is certainly pulling more than our own weight," White
House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday. "And we believe that there is more
that can be done if countries are willing to contribute additional resources."
The U.S. campaign has centered largely on airstrikes as well as the training
and assisting of security forces on the ground in Iraq. Efforts to train and
equip moderate rebel groups in Syria have struggled, and Obama has authorized
the deployment of 50 special operations forces to the country to jumpstart the
France has stepped up its airstrikes following the Paris attacks, relying in
part on U.S. intelligence to hit targets in Raqqa, the Islamic State group's
stronghold in Syria. British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday he
would seek parliamentary approval this week for Britain to begin airstrikes as
Hollande wants the U.S.-led coalition to start cooperating with Russia,
which is also launching airstrikes in Syria. While Putin says his country is
targeting the Islamic State militants, the U.S. contends Moscow is going after
rebels fighting Assad, a Kremlin ally whom the U.S. wants pushed out.
Last week, Hollande called for the U.S. and Russia to set aside their policy
divisions over Syria and "fight this terrorist army in a broad, single
coalition." But his office acknowledges that "coordination" sounds like a far
more realistic goal.
"We are not talking about a command center. We are talking about
coordination of methods and exchange of intelligence," a French diplomat said
on Monday. The diplomat wasn't authorized to publicly discuss the subject and
spoke on condition of anonymity.
Earnest said the U.S. would "continue the conversation" with Putin but
suggested Obama would make no promises to Hollande during Tuesday's visit.
From Washington, Hollande will travel to Moscow for meetings with Putin.
Beyond their discussions on military cooperation, Obama and Hollande were
expected to discuss diplomatic efforts to achieve a political transition in
While Russia is backing a new diplomatic effort in Syria, Moscow still
refuses to support steps that explicitly call for removing Assad.
The quagmire in Syria has dragged on for nearly five years, and criticism of
Obama's strategy appears only to grow louder.