You Say Tomato, I Say Close Combat Advising

[Content Note: War.]

In spite of President Obama's repeated assurances that he will not be ordering troops back into ground combat in Iraq, Army General Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate armed services committee today "that US ground troops may directly join Iraqi forces in combat against the Islamic State (Isis)" and "that he could see himself recommending the use of some US military forces now in Iraq to embed within Iraqi and Kurdish units to take territory away from Isis."
"If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific [Isis] targets, I will recommend that to the president," Dempsey said, preferring the term "close combat advising".

It was the most thorough public acknowledgement yet from Pentagon leaders that the roughly 1,600 US troops Obama has deployed to Iraq since June may in fact be used in a ground combat role, something Obama has directly ruled out, most recently in a televised speech last week.

Dempsey, who has for years warned about the "unintended consequences" of Americanizing the Syrian civil war that gave rise to Isis, said he envisioned "close combat advising" for operations on the order of taking Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, away from Isis.

He also opened the door to using US "advisers" to call in air strikes from the ground...

Obama's prohibition on ground forces in a combat role was less ironclad than the president has publicly stated, Dempsey suggested.

"At this point, his stated policy is we will not have US ground forces in direct combat," Dempsey said, to include spotting for US air strikes. "But he has told me as well to come back to him on a case-by-case basis."
So there will definitely totally for sure be no ground forces in direct combat, but there may be some close combat advising. It's kind of like how we're not just bombing the shit out of Iraq, but using drones to execute precision strikes on specific targets.

Since I already had no faith whatsoever that the new mission in Iraq would ever remain as limited as we're being promised, this did not come as a surprise. I did find it rather extraordinary, however, that Dempsey said "the latest US war in Iraq, and soon in Syria, will last several years." Oh good. For a moment I was worried the war profiteers might not have sufficient time to skim enough profits off the pointless deaths of soldiers and civilians to buy that shiny new yacht they've been wanting.

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