Gen. Martin Demsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday he will call for ground troops to fight the Islamic State in Iraq.
In response to questions by lawmakers on the commitment of U.S. troops, Dempsey said “if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I’ll recommend that to the president.”
Republicans in Congress have criticized Obama’s approach to fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Many are calling for an army division on the ground to combat IS troops.
“The president’s strategy to defeat ISIS is fundamentally detached from the reality on the ground,” said Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It will take an army to beat an army. But instead the president presented a limited counterterrorism strategy… I’m not advocating for an army division or combat elements on the ground. But it is foolhardy for the Obama administration to tie the hands and so firmly rule out the possibility of air controllers and special operators on the ground to direct airstrikes and advise fighter forces.”
“My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward. I believe that will prove true,” Dempsey added. “But if it fails to be true, and if there are threats to the United States, then I, of course, would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of U.S. military ground forces.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel emphasized building a coalition to fight ISIS. “More than 40 nations have already expressed their willingness to participate in this effort, and more than 30 nations have indicated their readiness to offer military support,” he said.
Following testimony by Dempsey and Hagel, White House spokesman Josh Earnest reiterated Obama’s position on ground troops.
“What he’s been very specific and precise about is that he will not deploy ground troops in a combat role into Iraq or Syria,” Earnest told reporters.