American ground troops Obama pulled out of Iraq in 2011 are going back – and this time some will deploy to Syria.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter confirmed on Tuesday a decision by Obama to begin “direct action on the ground” as the U.S.-led coalition continues battling the Islamic State group known as ISIS or ISIL.
“We won’t hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL, or conducting such missions directly whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground,” Carter said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services committee, NBC News reported.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., responded by blasting Obama’s “half-a–ed strategy at best,” in Syria.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted the “balance of forces” now favors the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Obama administration’s reversal comes after months of saying troops would not be used in such a role. Carter said during testimony that troops, “will be in harm’s way, no question about it.”
Reporters pushed White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz on Obama’s decision Tuesday. He said there was, “no intention of long-term ground combat,” the network reported.
Carter’s announcement comes just days after the U.S. announced the death of Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, 39, of Roland, Oklahoma, died during a special operations raid in Hawija, Iraq.
Wheeler and other special operators were with Kurdish forces last Thursday during a hostage rescue that saved roughly 70 people. The Pentagon said U.S. forces were only there in an advisory role when a firefight broke out.
“He ran to the sound of the guns and he stood up. All the indications are it was his actions and that of one of his teammates that protected those that were involved in breaching the compound and made the mission a success,” Carter said in a news briefing Oct. 23, Reuters reported.
The Army awarded Wheeler, who was assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the Purple Heart after his death.