The nation's top military leader told Congress today that if President Barack Obama's expanded military campaign to destroy Islamic extremists fails, he would recommend that the United States consider deploying American ground forces to Iraq.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate panel that the goal for American advisers is to help Iraqi forces with planning, logistics and coordinating military efforts by coalition partners to take out members of the Islamic State group.
"To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the president," Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committees, using an alternative name for the group.
Pressed during questioning, Dempsey said he "would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of ground forces."
Obama has maintained that American forces won't have a combat mission in Iraq.
Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel faced multiple questions from lawmakers in the first high-stakes hearing examining Obama's expanded military campaign to counter the relentless terrorist threat from Middle East extremists.
The U.S. military conducted strikes near Baghdad against the Islamic State group, which has seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria. Obama is seeking congressional support to train and equip vetted Syrian moderates fighting both the Islamic militants and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.
Dempsey said the United States is prepared to strike Islamic targets in Syria.
"This will not look like `shock and awe' because that is not how ISIL is organized. But it will be persistent and sustainable," Dempsey said, referring to the air bombardment at the start of the Iraq war in March 2003.
Several lawmakers have their doubts about the United States being pulled into a larger war, with increasing numbers of American troops. The president has already dispatched more than 1,000 Americans three years after combat forces left Iraq.
This segment aired on September 16, 2014.
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