Earnest Insists Obama’s Syria Strategy ‘Most Effective Way’ To Achieve Peace
EARNEST: "It's too early for me to say exactly what targets they were aiming at and what targets were eventually hit."
REPORTER: "Do you take Putin at his word he's only going after the Islamic State?"
EARNEST: "Well, the department of defense will take a look at the Russian military activities in Syria and may have more information to share about that in the days ahead. Your question, though, does raise, I think, something that warrants mentioning here at the outset. Which is, we are seeing the Russians ramp up their support for President Assad. They have been supporting him for quite some time. And it's clear that they have made a significant military investment now in further propping him up. The fact that Russia has to take these noteworthy steps to ramp up their support for Assad is an indication of how concerned they are about losing influence in the one client state they have in the Middle East. And -- this is in contrast to, or at least calls into question their strategy. Because when president Putin and President Obama had the opportunity to meet at the U.N. Earlier this week, much of their discussion was focused on the need for a political transition inside of Syria. Now, there are well-known differences of opinion about what that transition looks like, but there was agreement on both parts about the need for a political solution to the problems that are plaguing Syria. That means Russia will not succeed in imposing a military solution on Syria anymore than the United States was successful in imposing a military solution on Iraq a decade ago. And certainly no more than Russia was able to impose a military solution on Afghanistan three decades ago. So this goes to the case that the president made in his speech at the U.N. On Monday, which is that to confront these significant global challenges, nations around the world can exercise strength and exercise influence by being part of a large international effort to address those challenges. That's precisely what the united States is doing inside of Syria. The president is leading the coalition of now 65 countries that are implementing an integrated strategy that includes a robust military effort but also efforts to try to counter ISIL's online radical efforts, shut down foreign fighters, engage in counters to their finance efforts, and that is part of -- that's the most effective way for the united States to lead the international community. It's also the most effective way for us to advance U.S. Interests in the region and around the world. It also is the most effective way for us to eventually arrive at the kind of solution to the significant problems that are plaguing that war-torn country."