Washington: A top American general has raised the prospect of sending combat troops to fight against the Islamic State, a week after US President Barack Obama vowed not to get "dragged into another ground war" in Iraq.
"If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraq troops on attacks against specific ISIL (or ISIS) targets, I'll recommend that to the President," General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.
Obama and the entire administration has so far maintained that there would be no troops on ground to fight against the terrorist outfit that has gained control over a large part of Iraq and Syria and threatened regional peace.
During the Congressional hearing, Dempsey revealed that at least on one occasion, the Pentagon had sought permission from the President to deploy a small team of US advisors into battle with Iraqi troops, which has been denied.
"But he (President) has told me as well to come back to him on a case-by-case basis," Dempsey said.
Later in the evening, a spokesperson of General Dempsey said that he has full faith in Obama's policy and denied that in his testimony the Chairman spoke otherwise.
"Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, as he said in testimony today, believes the current strategy to counter ISIL is appropriate," said Col Ed Thomas, Chairman's spokesman.
"While we have advisors on the ground in Iraq today, the Chairman doesn't believe there is a military requirement for our advisors to accompany Iraqi forces into combat and provided the operations around Mosul Dam as a successful model," Thomas said.
"As he said in testimony, 'If we reach the point where I believe our advisors should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the President.' The example the Chairman gave was Joint Terminal Air Controllers calling in airstrikes," he noted.
"The context of this discussion was focused on how our forces best and most appropriately advise the Iraqis and was not a broader discussion of employing US ground combat units in Iraq," Thomas clarified.
During his testimony, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told lawmakers that ISIS poses a real threat to all countries in the Middle East, European allies and to America.
"In the last few months, the world has seen ISIL's barbarity up close as its fighters advanced across western and northern Iraq and slaughtered thousands of innocent civilians, including Sunni and Shia Muslims and Kurdish Iraqis and religious minorities," he said.
"Although the intelligence community has not yet detected specific plotting against the US homeland, ISIL has global aspirations. And as President Obama has made clear, ISIL's leaders have threatened America and our allies. If left unchecked, ISIL will directly threaten our homeland and our allies," Hagel said.
"While ISIL clearly poses an immediate threat to American citizens in Iraq and our interests in the Middle East, we also know that thousands of foreign fighters, including Europeans and more than 100 Americans have traveled to Syria," he said.