Military.com

Obama: US Should Avoid 'Long and Costly Ground War' in Iraq and Syria

U.S. Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, left, orders Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), to order-arms during a visit to Baghdad, Nov. 25, 2015. (U.S. Army photo/William Reinier)
U.S. Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, left, orders Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), to order-arms during a visit to Baghdad, Nov. 25, 2015. (U.S. Army photo/William Reinier)

President Barack Obama on Sunday said the U.S. should avoid a "long and costly ground war" in Iraq and Syria, despite continued threats from Islamic terrorism. Obama gave a rare Oval Office address on Sunday night just days after a heavily armed couple in San Bernardino, California, shot and killed 14 people and wounded 21 more. The FBI is investigating the incident as a terrorist attack after learning the wife pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, in a Facebook post, the Associated Press reported. "We should not be drawn once more into a long and costly ground war in Iraq or Syria," Obama said. "That's what groups like ISIL want," he said, using another term for ISIS. "They know they can't defeat us on the battlefield … But they also know that if we occupy foreign lands, they can maintain insurgencies for years, killing thousands of our troops, draining our resources, and using our presence to draw new recruits." Obama added, "The strategy that we are using now -- airstrikes, Special Forces, and working with local forces who are fighting to regain control of their own country -- that is how we'll achieve a more sustainable victory. And it won't require us sending a new generation of Americans overseas to fight and die for another decade on foreign soil." Some Republicans in Congress, including GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Lindsey Graham, have called for a U.S.-led ground war to defeat the Islamic State after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and injured hundreds more. Graham during a Nov. 16 hearing said American troops should make up about 10 percent of an overall ground force of 80,000 to 100,000 allied troops in the region. Jack Keane, the retired U.S. Army vice chief of staff, has proposed a plan that would involve thousands of troops, as well as vehicles, attack helicopters and large-scale commando raids. The U.S. now has about 3,550 troops in Iraq and has plans to deploy another couple hundred or so as part of an expeditionary targeting force of Special Operations members capable of conducting raids in both Iraq and Syria. In his address, Obama defended his administration's current strategy against ISIS. "In Iraq and Syria, airstrikes are taking out ISIL leaders, heavy weapons, oil tankers, infrastructure," he said. "And since the attacks in Paris, our closest allies -- including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom -- have ramped up their contributions to our military campaign, which will help us accelerate our effort to destroy ISIL." Obama said the U.S. will continue to provide training and equipment to tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian forces. That effort, part of a $500 million program underway for months, was heavily criticized after Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of Central Command, in September testified that only "four or five" U.S.-backed rebels were on the ground in Syria at that time. Obama also said the U.S. is working with allies to disrupt ISIS's operations, in part by sharing more intelligence with France and other European allies. "This is our strategy to destroy ISIL," he said. "It is designed and supported by our military commanders and counterterrorism experts, together with 65 countries that have joined an American-led coalition. And we constantly examine our strategy to determine when additional steps are needed to get the job done." --Richard Sisk and Matthew Cox contributed to this report. --Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

Show Full Article