WASHINGTON — Conservatives pushed back Thursday against President Barack Obama’s contention that the United States can stabilize Iraq without committing U.S. troops to a ground combat role in the country.
In a speech to the nation Wednesday night, Obama outlined a strategy that called for increased U.S. air attacks in support of Iraqi forces, coupled with increased training of the Iraqi military. The president said 475 additional troops would be sent to support the more than 1,000 others already on the ground in noncombat roles.
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., dismissed what he called Obama “minimalist” plan to the defeat Islamic State insurgents with the focus on air power. McKeon predicted that even in an advisory role, U.S. troops would likely need to do more, including fighting alongside Iraqi units, helping them with logistics and communications, and aiding in holding ground taken from the Islamic State, group also known by the acronyms ISIL and ISIS.
“American boots will be standing on sand. Americans will be shot at, and they will be shooting back,” McKeon said in prepared remarks to an audience at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank. “There’s simply no other way to do this.”
He noted that U.S. reliance on airpower alone in the NATO campaign against the late Moammar Gadhafi had failed to bring stability once the Libyan leader was gone.