US probably to deploy ground forces again in Iraq
WASHINGTON: America’s top military leader has said US
ground forces could be deployed again in Iraq, three years after they left the
Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate panel that he would make the recommendation if
the US strategy of airstrikes fails to defeat Islamic State (IS) militants.
“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,” said Gen Dempsey, using
another name for the terrorist group.
Asked to expand, he said he “would go back to the
president and make a recommendation that may include the use of ground forces.”
President Barack Obama has previously said there will no combat role for
American forces in Iraq.
Gen Dempsey spoke after American warplanes stepped up
their offensive against IS targets in Iraq, pounding targets southwest of
Baghdad in two raids on Sunday and Monday. The president has already sent more
than 1,000 US personnel, but they are said to be serving purely in an advisory
role to help Iraqi troops tackle the IS forces.
Pressed further on the possible role of US personnel,
Gen Dempsey said they could be sent to provide close combat advice or accompany
Iraqi troops on any future mission to recapture the Iraqi city Mosul from the
militants. He also told senators the US was ready to strike the extremists in
“This will not look like ‘shock and awe’ because that
is not how ISIL is organised,” he said, “but it will be persistent and
sustainable.” Gen Dempsey appeared alongside Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, who
warned the war would not be easy or brief.
“Victory is when we complete the mission of degrading,
destroying and defeating ISIL,” the Pentagon chief testified. The Senate
hearing was repeatedly disrupted by anti-war protesters.
House of Representatives lawmakers are considering the
Obama administration’s request for $500m (£300m) to arm and train moderate
Syrian rebels. However, Republicans and Democrats alike have expressed doubts
about whether it is possible to identify moderates in a war zone driven by
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond meanwhile
said the UK Government was doing all it could to save British hostage Alan
Henning, and warned it would not be deterred from its goal of ‘crushing’ the
Islamic State fighters behind his abduction.
Henning, an aid convoy volunteer, appeared at the end
of an IS video released on Saturday in which fellow UK hostage David Haines was
killed, with a threat that he would be next.