Kerry 'extremely encouraged' by pledges of military support against Islamic State

US Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (right) at the end of a joint news conference in Cairo on Sept 13, 2014. US Secretary of State John Kerry said in remarks aired on Sunday he is "extremely
US Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (right) at the end of a joint news conference in Cairo on Sept 13, 2014. US Secretary of State John Kerry said in remarks aired on Sunday he is "extremely encouraged" by pledges of military assistance against Islamic State (ISIS) militants by countries inside and outside the Middle East. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US Secretary of State John Kerry said in remarks aired on Sunday he is "extremely encouraged" by pledges of military assistance against Islamic State (ISIS) militants by countries inside and outside the Middle East.

On the CBS program 'Face the Nation,' Kerry said some countries have offered ground troops for the effort, but "we are not looking for that at this moment anyway." He did not identify the countries.

"This is a strategy coming together as the coalition comes together and the countries declare what they are prepared to do," Kerry said in the interview taped on Saturday in Egypt.

Kerry has been touring the Middle East to try to secure backing for the plan, and on Thursday won the backing for a "coordinated military campaign" from 10 Arab countries - Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and six Gulf states including rich rivals Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

However, he said the US will not coordinate air attacks on Islamic State militants with Syria but will seek to ensure their forces do not come into conflict.

"We will certainly want to deconflict and make certain that they're (Syria) not about to do something that they might regret even more seriously," Kerry said in the interview on CBS's Face the Nation.

"But we're not going to coordinate, it's not a cooperative effort."

Meanwhile, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said on Sunday he is pleased with progress in obtaining authority from the US Congress for the United States to train and equip the Syrian opposition to fight Islamic State militants.

"We are seeing very good progress in Congress, including in the House under the speaker's (Republican John Boehner's) leadership, to make sure that we have the authorities to train and equip those Syrian oppositionists on the ground who are fighting ISIL," McDonough told "Fox News Sunday," using an acronym for the Islamic State, the group's former name.

Congress is expected to vote on the issue this week.

Kerry, who spoke Saturday in Cairo before news of the latest ISIS beheading of a Western hostage, British aid worker David Haines, insisted "all bases are covered" for a US-led campaign against the militant group.

Kerry acknowledged that air strikes alone would not be sufficient to defeat ISIS, which has overrun swaths of Iraq and Syria, but reiterated that Washington would not put US troops on the ground.

Asked if any countries were willing to put troops on the ground, he said, "There are some who have offered to do so, but we are not looking for that at this moment anyway." "The answer is yes, there are some that have said that, there are some that are clearly prepared to take action in the air alongside the United States and to do air strikes if that's what they're called on to do," he added.

Kerry said anti-government forces would do the fighting on the ground in Syria, augmented by US and allied air support.

He did not explain how the United States would "deconflict" air strikes in Syria without some coordination with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Experts say Syria has sophisticated air defences that could pose a challenge to any air strikes.

But Kerry insisted "every single aspect of the president's (Obama's) strategy, and what is needed to be done in order to accomplish our goal, has been offered by one country or multiple countries and all bases are covered."