President Barack Obama’s military campaign against Islamic State group extremists has already crept beyond the narrow parameters he first outlined three months ago.
But military experts both inside and outside of the administration argue that even more may be needed for the mission to succeed, including embedding U.S. ground troops with Iraqi security forces who are on the front line of the fight against the violent militants. Taking that step could put Obama dangerously close to violating his pledges to keep Americans out of combat in Iraq.
For Obama, re-engaging in combat in Iraq would not only mark a reversal of his promises with regard to the current mission, but also undercut one of the broader causes of his presidency, which has been to end lengthy American wars and avoid new ones. But if his military commanders ask for ground troops and he rejects the request, he could be accused of putting his legacy ahead of the mission’s success.