- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2014

Former CIA director David H. Petraeus said Thursday that U.S. ground troops may still be needed to destroy Islamic State extremists in Iraq, but the Obama administration’s current strategy of only deploying advisers to the war zone has “a reasonable chance of success” without a large number of American boots on the ground.

The long-term fight against the extremist group, which is currently the target of U.S.-led airstrikes in both Syria and Iraq, can “and must be done by Iraqi security forces,” Mr. Petraeus said during a rare public appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

Mr. Petraeus said he agrees with recent comments by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, who triggered headlines on Sept. 16 when he testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the possibility of a U.S. ground troop deployment should be on the table.

“To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific [Islamic State] targets, I will recommend that to the president,” Gen. Dempsey told lawmakers at the time.

Other senior Obama administration officials, including Secretary of State John F. Kerry, attempted to walk back Gen. Dempsey’s comments during subsequent congressional hearings in mid-September.

But Thursday, Mr. Petraeus, a former U.S. Army general who played integral roles overseeing U.S. ground forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade, said Gen. Dempsey was actually right on the mark.

“I think Gen. Dempsey has been appropriate and forthright in noting that if it comes to it, he would ask for certain capabilities that are required to assist the Iraqi security forces on the ground,” Mr. Petraeus said.

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