Troops’ Role in Iraq Anti-ISIS Strategy Questioned

Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey disputed House Armed Services Committee members’ charges Wednesday that the administration had no strategy to defeat ISIS extremists in Iraq. Carter and Dempsey also rejected congressional demands for more aggressive use of US forces on the ground, including putting joint terminal attack controllers with Iraqi troops. Carter insisted the strategy for the Middle East, including Iraq, was based on “tireless diplomacy backed by formidable military power and dedicated capacity building to buttress and leverage the contributions of others” in the region. The military part of the strategy, relying heavily on air strikes, has succeeded in slowing ISIS advances and providing crucial time to rebuild the Iraqi forces, he said. But HASC Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said the situation in the region “has deteriorated substantially” and “we see nothing coming from the White House to change that.” Members from both parties said the fight against ISIS would be more effective if US personnel were in the field, advising Iraqi troops and directing air strikes. But Dempsey supported Carter’s position that a lasting defeat of ISIS required victory by local forces and said the role of US troops “is at the appropriate level.”