U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday afternoon that “U.S. ground troops will not be sent into combat in this conflict,” referring to the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Kerry's assertion that American combat troops will not fight against ISIS in Iraq came one day after Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey seemed to suggest that the opposite may one day be true.
"My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward," Dempsey told lawmakers Tuesday, Politico reported. "I believe that will prove true, but if it fails to be true and if there are threats to the United States, then I of course would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of U.S. military ground forces."
Dempsey spokesman Col. Ed Thomas seemed to make an attempt to clarify Dempsey's comments in a Tuesday statement asserting that "[t]he context of this discussion was focused on how our forces advise the Iraqis and was not a discussion of employing US ground combat units in Iraq," according to Bloomberg News.
The White House also took steps Wednesday that appeared to be aimed at walking back Dempsey's comments. President Obama told troops at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base: "I will not commit you and the rest of our Armed Forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq," Fox News reported. He went on to state that the forces on the ground in Iraq "will not have a combat mission," instead providing only non-combat assistance to Iraqi troops.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated later Wednesday that Dempsey meant only that U.S. forces in Iraq may be delegated "forward-deployed positions with Iraqi troops," according to Fox.
Kerry's Wednesday afternoon remarks to the Senate panel further echoed those of Obama and Earnest.
“I want to be clear,” Mr. Kerry said. “The U.S. troops that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.”