Dempsey Calls for Iraq Ground Operation

Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff tells Congress he recommends escalation Obama has opposed with disastrous results on the ground.

Ari Yashar ,

Martin Dempsey
Martin Dempsey
Flash 90

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told the Congress on Tuesday that he recommends deploying US ground forces against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq, in a direct contradiction of US President Barack Obama's largely hands off approach.

Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Dempsey backed the coalition being formed against ISIS, but said if the limited airstrikes do not stop ISIS's advance he would push Obama to take the attack to the ground, reports the New York Times.

"My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward. ...But if it fails...then I of course would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of US military ground forces," said Dempsey.

Obama just last week in his speech about the ISIS threat said he was sending military advisers to aid local Iraqi and Kurdish forces, but emphasized "these American forces will not have a combat mission - we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq."

In response to the position, Dempsey told Congress that Obama's "stated policy is that we will not have US forces in ground combat." However, he added that Obama "has told me as well to come back to him on a case-by-case basis."

Dempsey argued that realities on the ground may make Obama's limited airstrikes insufficient.

He gave the example of the Mosul Dam, noting that the commander of the military’s Central Command, Gen. Lloyd Austin, had recommended sending US troops to act as spotters for airstrikes trying to retake the dam. Obama rejected the proposal - and as a result the strategic dam has been lost to ISIS.

Given such cases, Dempsey said he might recommend to Obama sending Special Ops troops to give "close combat advising" to Iraqi forces on the ground.

However, Dempsey added "truly there is no military solution to ISIL," using an alternate name for ISIS. "That may be a tough pill to swallow. But there is no military solution."

Dempsey, along with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, presented the Obama administration's plan to confront ISIS, which they said will include the training of 5,000 Syrian fighters, 1,600 American military personnel in assisting positions, and 40 coalition nations including 30 that have promised military support.

Former presidential candidate Senator John McCain (R-AZ) cast doubt on the plan, saying that the 5,000 Syrian fighters would unlikely be able to fight off the more than 30,000 ISIS terrorists. He added that it may take months to train the Syrians.

"To many of us that seems like an inadequate response," McCain stated.