General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has told to the House Armed Services Committee that he is considering a ground-combat role for U.S. troops in Iraq, the Guardian reports:
“I’m not predicting at this point that I would recommend that [Iraqi security] forces in Mosul and along the border would need to be accompanied by US forces, but we’re certainly considering it,” Dempsey said. […]Even with potential US involvement in ground combat looming, Dempsey and his boss, defense secretary Chuck Hagel, said further troop increases would be “modest,” and not on the order of the 150,000 US troops occupying Iraq at the height of the 2003-2011 war.“I just don’t foresee a circumstance when it would be in our interest to take this fight on ourselves with a large military contingent,” Dempsey said.But should the Iraqi military prove unwilling to take back “al-Anbar province and Ninewa province” – the majority of territory in Iraq seized by Isis – or should new Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi exclude Sunnis from power, “I will have to adjust my recommendations,” Dempsey said.
When General Dempsey called for sending in ground troops in September, the White House quickly said it had ruled out that option. But could this time around be different?The U.S. has just doubled the size of its forces in Iraq, and the President has announced, in somewhat vague terms, that this is a “new phase” in the fight against ISIS. Meanwhile, the Iraqi troops may not be ready to go on the offensive against ISIS for three to four years, according to recent reports. And now Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has fired 36 top Iraqi generals in a potentially significant reform of the corruption-plagued Iraqi military, but one that will certainly take time to bear fruit.With its army in turmoil at the highest level and woefully underprepared at the lowest, could Obama be eyeing a more extensive commitment to shoring up the remains of Iraq?