- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 21, 2014

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Sunday that President Obama’s vow to destroy the Islamic State is “very ambitious,” but that even degrading the terrorist group will require some American combat troops.

“We’ve been at war with al Qaeda for 13 years. We haven’t destroyed it yet,” Mr. Gates said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“We’ve changed it. We’ve certainly degraded in the Afghan-Pakistani area, but all you have to do is look around the world, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, to see that it’s still around,” Mr. Gates said. “So I think destroying probably is ambitious, at least in the foreseeable future.”

Mr. Obama said in his Sept. 10 speech that the U.S. objective is to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.”

Such an objective will undoubtedly require the involvement of a “small” number of U.S. advisers to work with Iraqi troops “on the ground and in harm’s way,” Mr. Gates said.

“What I believe, and I suspect what most military people believe, is that given the mission the president has assigned, which is degrade and destroy, that to be able to do that some small number of American advisers, trainers, special forces and former spotters, former air controllers, are going to have to be in harm’s way and I think that number will be very small,” Mr. Gates said.

He added that he didn’t think the mission would require an all-out ground war.

“What the administration is trying to communicate is that we’re not going to send battalions, we’re not going to send brigades, but there will have to be, I think, to achieve the mission the president has assigned, some American boots on the ground and in harm’s way,” Mr. Gates said.

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