Speaking to women foreign policy leaders today in Washington, National Security Adviser Susan Rice would not rule out the United States' providing more military help to Nigeria in locating the 200-plus girls abducted from their school dormitories a month ago, but emphasized that the girls need to be located before any discussions of something beyond mostly advisory assistance can be had.
Rice said the administration has been "gripped" by the situation, echoing the president and first lady's sentiment of feeling a personal connection as parents.
"For those of us who are policymakers, but also those of us who are parents, as I am, it's just heartbreaking to imagine your teenage girl taken away and potentially at risk of being sold into captivity or worse," Rice said.
But asked by moderator-journalist Judy Woodruff about calls from some members of Congress for U.S. special forces to assist with the rescue, Rice said Nigeria is, first and foremost, a sovereign nation with responsibility for securing and protecting its citizens.
"To the extent that they make requests of us or others to provide support, we're open to entertaining those. But, obviously, as I said at the outset, the most important thing now is to locate the girls," she said. "There's no point in sending in any kind of additional support if we don't know where they are. So that has to be the first order of business."
Sen. John McCain told The Daily Beast Tuesday that the United States should be ready to send in special forces to rescue the girls whether the Nigerian government gives permission or not.
"I would not be involved in the niceties of getting the Nigerian government to agree, because if we did rescue these people, there would be nothing but gratitude from the Nigerian government, such as it is," the Arizona Republican said.
But while Rice would not rule out U.S. military boots on the ground in Nigeria, she emphasized that the scenario was unlikely, even though U.S. surveillance aircraft have provided intelligence and imagery.
"In all likelihood, if we were to do more with respect to a Nigerian request, it would likely be in advisory capacity, which is what we're doing thus far and what we could - can potentially do more of if we had better information on where the girls are located."