Army Chief Wary of Return to Ground Combat

Despite the presence of US advisors at command centers and at Iraqi military unit headquarters, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told reporters Thursday he does not think it’s time to reintroduce US combat forces in Iraq. “It would not be helpful,” he said during a breakfast roundtable in Washington, D.C. Odierno said the Iraqis have to find a way to solve the ISIS problem themselves, even after the recent setback in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province. Until the Iraqi government has the confidence of both Iraq’s people and its military forces, progress will be “difficult,” he acknowledged. In addition to the coalition air campaign, Odierno said US advisors in Iraq have to work to build capability but also to help Iraqi leadership develop and “understand their role” in rolling back ISIS. While US advisors at the headquarters level, in places like Baghdad and Irbil, are key to passing intelligence back and forth, which has aided the air campaign, Odierno said he is hesitant to embed US soldiers with Iraqi combat units due to the complex nature of Iraq’s sectarian and ethnic lines, and the presence of Iranian forces. “I don’t want to put our soldiers in the middle of that,” he added. “The Iraqis have to solve this problem.”