US President Barack Obama reiterated that American ground combat troops will not return to Iraq.
“I will not commit you, and the rest of our armed forces, to fighting another ground war in Iraq,” Obama told troops at the US Central Command in Tampa, Florida, on Wednesday.
Obama’s renewed pledge came amid some skepticism over his plan that relies on Iraqi and Syrian forces to fight the jihadist group Islamic States, USA Today reported.
Obama said the US, which is conducting airstrikes in Iraq and planning them in Syria, will be joined by a coalition of other nations under threat by the Islamist fighters.
“This is not and will not be America’s fight alone,” the president was quoted as saying.
Former defense secretary Robert Gates has questioned whether Obama can achieve his goal of defeating the Islamic State without US ground forces.
“They’re not gonna be able to be successful against ISIS strictly from the air, or strictly depending on the Iraqi forces, or the Peshmerga, or the Sunni tribes acting on their own,” Gates told CBS’ This Morning. “So there will be boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of success in the strategy.”
Gates also said Obama is doing himself a disservice by echoing his pledge against combat troops.
“I think that by continuing to repeat that, the president in effect traps himself,” Gates said.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in congressional testimony Tuesday that he will recommend the deployment of ground troops to fight the extremists if the current strategy of airstrikes fails.
But White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama would not even “review or consider” options that include US combat troops.
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