U.S. general won’t rule out larger ground role in Iraq

General Dempsey says the military campaign against ISIS will not be 'shock and awe'

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The most senior U.S. military officer raised the possibility on Tuesday that U.S. troops might need to take on a larger ground role as they fend off militants belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, but the White House stressed there would be no combat mission for U.S. ground forces, reported Reuters news agency.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there was no intention of placing American military advisers on the ground for direct combat. The U.S. plan relies on other contributions, including air strikes.


Still, he told a Senate hearing: "I've mentioned, though, that if I found that circumstance evolving, that I would, of course, change my recommendation."

Dempsey offered scenarios in which a larger role might be worthwhile, including embedding U.S. forces with Iraqis during a complicated offensive, such as a battle to retake the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State fighters.

"It could very well be part of that particular mission to provide close combat advising or accompanying for that mission," he said. "But for the day-to-day activities that I anticipate will evolve over time, I don't see it to be necessary right now."

President Barack Obama has ruled out the possibility of a combat mission that could drag the United States into another ground war in Iraq.

Responding to Dempsey's comments, the White House said Obama's military advisers had to plan for many possibilities and that overall policy had not changed - that Obama would not deploy U.S. troops in a combat role in Iraq or Syria.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Dempsey was "referring to a hypothetical scenario in which there might be a future situation where he might make a tactical recommendation to the president as it relates to ground troops."

The U.S. military campaign against ISIS will not be "shock and awe" where overwhelming power is used to paralyze the enemy, Dempsy to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“We will be prepared to strike ISIL [ISIS] targets in Syria that degrade ISIL's capabilities," said Dempsey, using an acronym for the militant group.

“This won't look like a ‘shock and awe’ campaign because that's simply not how ISIL is organized. But it will be a persistent and sustainable campaign.”

Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel told the Senate committee hearing that the planned U.S. air strikes will target extremist sanctuaries, command centers and logistic networks.

“This plan includes targeted actions against ISIL safe havens in Syria -- including its command and control, logistics capabilities, and infrastructure,” Hagel said.

(With Reuters)

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