Dempsey: Airpower Not Enough, But No US Ground Forces Now
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Dempsey, accompanied by Defense Secretary Hagel, brief reporters about ongoing operations against Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq at the Pentagon, Friday, Sept. 26, 2014 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Dempsey, accompanied by Defense Secretary Hagel, brief reporters about ongoing operations against Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq at the Pentagon, Friday, Sept. 26, 2014
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey said Friday that ground forces ultimately will be needed to finish the fight with the Islamic State, but the infantry should come from the Iraqis, the Kurds and the "moderate" Syrian rebels.
"I want to emphasize that no one is under any illusions -- under any illusions -- that airstrikes alone will defeat ISIL," Hagel said at a Pentagon briefing, using an acronym for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, another name used to describe the Islamic State.
President Obama has ruled out the use of large U.S. ground units – such as infantry brigades -- in Iraq and Syria, but Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, once again said he would not hesitate to recommend putting small U.S. units on the front lines if the circumstances demanded it.
Addressing the U.S. "boots on the ground" issue, Dempsey said that "the ideal [ground] force, in fact the only truly effective force that will actually be able to reject ISIL from within the population, is a force comprised of Iraqis and Kurds and moderate Syrian opposition" fighters.
Dempsey did not directly address the suggestions by military analysts, including retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, that U.S. ground troops should be based forward to serve as advisers and to call in airstrikes.