US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has told the House Armed Services Committee that the military, not President Barack Obama, will make decisions on Syria airstrikes.
Hagel said on Thursday that the recent Wall Street Journal reports that Obama will personally sign off on every airstrike inside Syria were false.
The Pentagon chief insisted that Obama had authorized Army General Lloyd Austin, the commander of United States Central Command (CENTCOM), to carry out such strikes.
He went on to say that the CENTCOM commander has full authority to conduct air campaign inside Syria without Obama’s approval.
Hagel’s comments have come as the uneasy relationship between the White House and US military is on full display with Obama and his top generals continue to clash over the new strategy to combat the ISIL terrorist organization.
Obama has authorized airstrikes against ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria, but has ruled out American boots on the ground in a combat role. The United States has already conducted some 174 airstrikes against ISIL targets in Iraq since mid-August.
US military officials have complained privately for weeks that airstrikes alone would not be sufficient to achieve the announced goal of deafening ISIL whose militants have seized a third of both Iraq and Syria, and beheaded two US journalists and one British citizen.
The Obama administration hopes the Iraqi military and vetted “moderate” Syrian militants would lead the ground offensive against ISIL.
The Pentagon plans to train and arm 5,000 militants in Syria as part of the Obama administration’s long-term strategy to confront ISIL.
Obama had requested $500 million from Congress to train and equip the militants fighting both the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and ISIL militants.
On Thursday, the US Senate approved Obama’s plan to arm and train “moderate” militants in Syria, a day after it was passed by the House of Representatives.