Saturday 10 December 2016

US general calls for boots on ground in Iraq

Rob Crilly

Published 14/08/2015 | 02:30

Raymond Odierno has suggested that the US may have to put troops on the ground in Iraq
Raymond Odierno has suggested that the US may have to put troops on the ground in Iraq

America's most senior army general has said putting boots on the ground in Iraq might be the only way to make progress against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

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Gen Raymond Odierno, the outgoing army chief of staff, said months of stalement meant that sending in US troops to embed with local forces was an option that should be put to President Barack Obama.

In recent weeks a number of senior US officials have admitted that Isil is replacing fighters just as fast as they have been killed by airstrikes and ground offensives.

"If we find in the next several months that we aren't making progress, we should absolutely consider embedding some soldiers (in Iraq)," said Gen Odierno at his final press conference before retiring. "I think that's an option we should present to the president."

Policy

He stopped short of making the same recommendation for Syria, which he said was a very different place.

Even so, the policy would mean a huge reverse for a president who won election on ending America's foreign wars and is wary of committing troops - however few and however limited their role - back overseas.

Instead the US is relying on an air campaign and efforts to better train and equip local forces.

Opponents of the strategy, such as John McCain, the Republican senator, have long questioned a policy that discounted boots on the ground and argue that forward observers are needed - at the very least - to guide in airstrikes.

Gen Odierno described his frustration at what has happened in Iraq since US troops left in 2011, and at political divisions that had fuelled anger and allowed extremist movements to take hold.

Irish Independent

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