President Obama said he wakes up thinking of the Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Islamist extremists and facing a life as sex slaves, and wishes he "could reach out and save those kids."
"We only need to look at today's headlines — the devastation of Syria, the murders and kidnappings in Nigeria, sectarian conflict, the tribal conflicts — to see that we have not yet extinguished man's darkest impulses," Obama said at a Los Angeles fund-raiser late Wednesday.
"I have this remarkable title right now — president of the United States," Obama said. "And yet every day when I wake up, and I think about young girls in Nigeria or children caught up in the conflict in Syria . . . there are times in which I want to reach out and save those kids."
Obama, speaking at an event for the Steven Spielberg-backed USC Shoah Foundation, was frustrated over the lack of a quick fix.
"Having to think through what levers, what power do we have at any given moment, I think, drop by drop by drop, that we can erode and wear down these forces that are so destructive, that we can tell a different story," he said.
On Thursday, government soldiers arrived in the town of Chibok, where 276 girls were kidnapped on April 14 by members of the brutal Boko Haram terror group, which threatened to sell them as sex slaves or force them into marriage.
"There are about three military helicopters hovering around our town and many soldiers have just arrived," said Maina Chibok, whose 16-year-old daughter is in the extremists' hands.
"They are moving and advancing toward the bush. We hope they succeed in rescuing our daughters."
Secretary of State John Kerry said a small team of US advisers was in place to help the Nigerians.
And Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan vowed that the schoolgirls would be found.
"I believe the kidnap of these girls will be the beginning of the end of terror in Nigeria," Jonathan said at Thursday's opening of the World Economic Forum for Africa in Nigeria's capital, Abuja.
UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown also addressed the kidnappings at the forum.
"All our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the more than 270 girls who were abducted and kidnapped and who are being held in captivity," said Brown, who is sending a special-forces team to Nigeria.
Experts said a special-forces operation was the best hope for the girls' safe recovery.
"I think, frankly, a military solution is one of the only ones that's going to work to free them without imbuing [Boko Haram] with the lesson that terrorism pays," said Steven Emerson, head of the Washington, DC-based Investigative Project on Terrorism.
"I don't think hostage negotiations are the right answer. That is going to give a green light to them to demand anything they want." .
He suggested that the United States send the elite Navy SEALs, the same unit that took out Osama bin Laden.
Emerson said they could handle terrain like the dense Nigerian forests and would be able to easily overtake the terror group.
"Boko Haram are a bunch of thugs with automatic weapons and that's about it," Emerson said. "The US can clearly take them out."