President Barack Obama on Wednesday said he would not flinch from sending special forces to kill top Islamic State (ISIS) extremists, as he called on Congress to authorize operations that stop short of a full-scale invasion, AFP reports.
Tantamount to a declaration of war, Obama asked Congress for authority to take the fight to the Islamic State group, beyond their current bases in Syria and Iraq if necessary.
"Our coalition is on the offensive," he said, adding Islamic State is "on the defensive" and is "going to lose."
He promised to augment the largely air-focused offensive with stealth attacks if necessary.
"If we had actionable intelligence about a gathering of ISIS leaders, and our partners didn't have the capacity to get them, I would be prepared to order our special forces to take action," Obama said.
"I will not allow these terrorists to have a safe haven."
The request signals a ramping up of pressure on ISIS as the Iraqi government prepares for a major ground offensive, expected within months.
It would also provide a firmer legal basis to prosecute a months-old military campaign and provide political cover at home.
Since mid-2014, the United States military has been conducting a campaign of air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
With the death of hostage Kayla Mueller and the killing of three other American hostages, Obama has been under pressure to re-examine his strategy and step up the fight.
But in order to win the backing of the Republican-controlled Congress, and overcome jitters within his own Democratic party, Obama placed limits on his power to deploy the military in both form and scope.
The proposed legislation "does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations," the draft sent to Congress and quoted by AFP read.
Obama declared that the United States "should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East."
The authorization would also "terminate three years after the date of the enactment of this joint resolution, unless reauthorized."
Obama will also have to report to Congress every six months.
With the 2016 elections approaching and the bitter arguments over previous wars still seared in U.S. political memory, Obama was quick to make clear on Wednesday this would not be a sequel to Iraq or Afghanistan.
"Local forces on the ground who know their countries best are best positioned to take the ground fight to ISIS", he said.
AFP contributed to this report.