- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Pentagon’s top general said there could be circumstances under which the United States’ fight against the Islamic State would be more effective with U.S. troops on the ground providing assistance in spotting targets.

“There will be circumstances where the answer to that question will likely be yes, but I haven’t encountered one right now,” Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview that aired on ABC’s “This Week.”

Gen. Dempsey told Congress last month he would go to President Obama if he thought combat troops’ advising or accompanying Iraqi or Kurdish forces would help the U.S. achieve its goal in combating the Islamic State. A spokesman later said the general was envisioning ways to help call in airstrikes, not to be part of ground combat units marching alongside Iraqi troops.

The White House has repeatedly said U.S. ground troops will not play a combat role in the mission — a sentiment echoed Sunday by National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

“The president has been very plain that this is not a campaign that requires or even would benefit from American ground troops in combat again,” Ms. Rice said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Gen. Dempsey acknowledged that Islamic State fighters can be difficult to target and that they’re reaching out to children as part of a campaign to influence the next generation of potential fighters.

But he also cited progress, notably an operation that employed Apache helicopters to help turn back fighters approaching the Baghdad airport.

“The tool that was immediately available was the Apache. The risk of operating in a hostile environment is there, constantly,” he said. “This is a case where you’re not going to wait [until] they’re climbing over the wall. They were within 20 or 25 kilometers, and had they overrun the Iraqi unit, [and from there] it was a straight shot to the airport.

“So we’re not going to allow that to happen. We need that airport,” he said.

Gen. Dempsey said there is more that can be done inside of Syria, but said he has not yet been asked to set up a no-fly zone.

“Do I anticipate that there could be circumstances in the future where that would be a part of the campaign? Yeah,” he said.

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