September 18, 2014 2:19:16 am
President Barack Obama vowed on Wednesday the United States will not fight another ground war in Iraq, seeking to reassure Americans about the level of US involvement after a top general suggested combat troops could be deployed against ISIS forces.
Obama, who has spent much of his presidency distancing himself from the Iraq War, stressed during a speech at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa that airstrikes would be the central US contribution to the fight against ISIS, along with coordinating a coalition that he said now includes more than 40 countries.
“I want to be clear. The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission,” Obama said. “We will train and equip our partners. We will advise them and we will assist them. We will lead a broad coalition of countries who have a stake in this fight.”
His message came a day after General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, left the door slightly ajar to the possibility of some ground forces during congressional testimony that worried some Democrats.
“As your commander in chief I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq,” Obama said.
The United States has launched more than 160 airstrikes against ISIS targets in several areas in Iraq and Obama has authorised similar attacks against the extremist group’s strongholds in Syria. More than 1,600 American advisers have been dispatched to help Iraqi forces but Obama does not want them to get involved in ground combat to avoid a repeat of the Iraq War begun by his predecessor, George Bush.
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