President Barack Obama definitively said he would not use US troops for combat missions on the ground in Iraq in a speech on Wednesday, one day after his top military officer suggested the possibility if the situation in Iraq worsens.
“American forces deployed to Iraq will not have a combat mission,” Obama said while addressing troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, on Wednesday. “I will not commit you to fighting another ground war in Iraq.”
His comments came after Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told a Senate panel he would recommend the president include ground troops in certain missions if the administration’s current strategy against the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) floundered.
“To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the president,” Dempsey said.
The White House later reaffirmed Obama’s position US ground troops will not be used in combat missions and a spokesman for Dempsey later issued a statement clarifying his comments.
Obama received a briefing Wednesday from officers in Tampa at U.S. Central Command, which oversees military campaigns in the Middle East. Afterwards, during brief remarks to soldiers stationed at MacDill, Obama painted the effort to “degrade and destroy” ISIS as one that would require a broad coalition working with the US.
The president said 40 nations had joined the US in committing some form of assistance in the fight against ISIS. Among those was Saudi Arabia, who Obama said had agreed to set up a station to train moderate Syrian forces battling the group in Syria. Other countries
Obama also repeated a familiar warning to ISIS, which has beheaded two American journalists and one British aid worker.
“You will find no safe haven. We will find you eventually,” he said.
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