Republican leaders panned President Obama's national security address Sunday night as more political spin than a real plan for defeating terrorists.

For months, Obama's opponents have leveled much the same criticism against his Middle East strategy, and the president's speech came just days before Defense Secretary Ash Carter is scheduled to return to Capitol Hill to defend the administration's military actions in Iraq and Syria before a skeptical Congress.

In his Oval Office speech, Obama said extremists like the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS and ISIL, pose a serious and immediate threat to the American homeland and vowed to fight terrorist organizations across the globe.

But he also insisted that the U.S. will not again be "drawn once more into a long and costly ground war" overseas, pushing back on calls from lawmakers for a larger military presence in Iraq and Syria.

About 3,500 U.S. troops are deployed in Iraq, and Carter just announced plans to put about 100 special operations personnel in the region to go after Islamic State leaders and gather intelligence.

Following that announcement, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he remains skeptical of the overall administration strategy because he believes Obama is ignoring Pentagon advice in favor of his own predetermined decision to shy away from direct U.S. military action.

"What we need is not a political sales job but serious, sustained action," Thornberry said in a statement. "The marginal changes in military tactics [Obama] has taken since Paris demonstrate that the president continues to be reactive rather than go on the offensive against a dangerous enemy.

"He has consistently underestimated this threat and has consistently been a step behind in dealing with it. I see no evidence tonight that he is changing his views or policies."

Thornberry's Senate Armed Services Committee counterpart, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Obama's speech ignored the reality that "we are not winning the war against ISIL, and that the threat of terrorism against our homeland is real and growing."

He called the current mission for U.S. troops involving airstrikes and training, but not combat, "an indecisive military campaign" and warned that "if we do not destroy this threat now, and fast, no one should be surprised if America gets attacked again."

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the House majority leader, called Sunday's speech just a restating of an already questionable strategy, bereft of new ideas or reassurances for the American public.

"The president is right on one thing: Terrorism has entered a new phase," McCarthy said in a statement. "But without a comprehensive and robust strategy, we cannot defeat ISIS abroad and the threat of terrorism will only increase at home."

Obama preemptively tried to turn that criticism back on Congress, saying lawmakers should take up sensible gun control measures and approve a new military force authorization against the Islamic State group.

"For over a year, I have ordered our military to take thousands of airstrikes against ISIL targets," the president said. "I think it's time for Congress to vote to demonstrate that the American people are united and committed to this fight."

Lawmakers don't appear ready to do that. Despite a draft force authorization from the White House in the spring, Congress has made little progress on passing a new agreement.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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