White House Insists: No Ground Forces in Iraq

Despite comments by General Dempsey, White House spokesman insists the U.S. will not deploy ground forces against IS in Iraq.

Ben Ariel ,

Press Secretary Josh Earnest
Press Secretary Josh Earnest

The White House insisted on Tuesday that the U.S. would not deploy ground forces against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq, despite comments otherwise by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.

Dempsey said earlier Tuesday he recommends deploying ground forces against IS in Iraq

"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 U.S. military ground forces," said Dempsey.

Those comments, however, were in contradiction to what President Barack Obama said last week in his speech about IS. In that speech, Obama said he was sending military advisers to aid local Iraqi and Kurdish forces, but emphasized that "these American forces will not have a combat mission - we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq."

Later Tuesday, during a press conference en route to Atlanta, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked about Dempsey’s comments and said that Dempsey was referring to a “hypothetical scenario”.

“I think, as was clear from General Dempsey’s remarks, that he was referring to a hypothetical scenario in which there might be a future situation in which he might make a tactical recommendation to the President as it relates to the use of ground troops,” he said.

“It’s the responsibility of the President’s military advisers to plan and consider all the wide range of contingencies. It’s also the responsibility of the Commander-in-Chief to set out a clear policy. And the President has been clear about what that policy is. He reiterated it on a number of occasions; most recently, I believe in his address to the nation on Wednesday night, which is that the President does not believe that it would be in the best interest of our national security to deploy American ground troops in a combat role in Iraq and Syria. That policy has not changed,” declared Earnest.

Earnest later clarified that the president has “deployed American servicemen and women — a limited number of them —to serve in an advise-and-assist capacity” but that he “will not deploy ground troops in a combat role into Iraq or Syria.”