A top military official told a Senate panel on Tuesday that he would recommend that President Barack Obama deploy foot soldiers in Iraq if the expanded military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fails.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services committee that the primary goal for American advisers is to aid Iraqi forces with planning, logistics and coordinating military efforts by coalition members to attack the extremist militants, the Associated Press reported.
“To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific (ISIS) targets, I will recommend that to the president,” Dempsey said.
He also explained that if the operation is too complex, such as the reclaiming of the Mosul Dam, American security advisers in Iraq can be called on to get closer to the fight, USA Today reported.
Advisers are currently not allowed to take part in direct combat.
Obama, whose popularity in 2008 rose because of his advocacy of ending wars, has always maintained that the U.S. government would not deploy forces on the ground and would rather focus on attacking the ISIS by air.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who was also at the inquiry, said the U.S. is at war with the extremist group and acknowledged that “it will not be an easy or brief effort. It is complicated.”
“We are at war with ISIL, as we are with al-Qaeda,” Hagel said. “But destroying ISIL will require more than military efforts alone. It will require political progress in the region, and effective partners on the ground in Iraq and Syria.”
The secretary said that the country faces a serious threat from ISIS, which has so far declared a caliphate between the borders of Iraq and Syria and executed three Westerners, American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines.
Hagel and Dempsey are in the hearing to present Obama’s more specific plans to Senators, which includes expanded airstrikes and consolidation of a broad coalition against the extremists.