Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told CNN that ground troops may be required to fight ISIS. "It could be necessary," Hagel said.
"I think just as the president has said, and it is the advice I have given the president, it's what General Dempsey has, is that we have to look at all the options," said Hagel in the exit interview. "And I think it may require a forward deployment of some of our troops, not doing the fighting, not doing the combat work that we did at one time for six years in Iraq and we did for many, many years in Afghanistan, but to help air strike -"
The reporter interrupted, "Locate targets, intelligence?"
"Those are things where we can continue to support. I would say that we're not there yet. Whether we get there or not, I don't know. Whether that's something that our millitary commanders would recommend into the future, I don't know. But I think just as the president has made clear, I need to know your honest opinion, and he has been very forthright about that. What you think? If that's something that you think--"
"But you are saying -- you are saying you think it could be necessary," the CNN reporter clarified.
"It could be. But I'm not willing to say that it will be necessary. I say it could be necessary," said Hagel.
President Obama said that American troops in are "in a war environment" fighting the Islamic State and that the men and women in the military are in "harm's way." He made the comments this evening on 60 Minutes:
"You know, you've said no American boots on the ground, no combat troops on the ground," said 60 Minutes host Steve Kroft. "We've got 1,600 troops there.
Robert Gates, President Obama's first defense secretary, said this morning on CBS that President Obama's strategy for defeating the Islamic State is unrealistic:
"The reality is, they're not going to be able to be successful against ISIS strictly from the air or strictly depending on the Iraqi forces or the Peshmerga or the Sunni tribes acting on their own," said Gates.
We're at war. We're putting boots on the ground. We're not waiting around for the host nation's government to get its affairs in order, or for a regional coalition to commit first. The president has apparently overcome his reluctance to use the military, his worries about a commitment to intervene without an exit strategy, and his usual reluctance to acknowledge (even implicitly) that his administration was wrong when it assured us that there was nothing much for us to worry about.
John Kerry argued that it doesn't really make a difference if we call U.S. action against ISIS a "war." He criticized the "tortured debate" this morning on CBS:
"Mr. Secretary, thank you so much," said CBS host Bob Schieffer. "Can I clear up one thing first. This week you went to some lengths to say you wouldn't call this a war, but yet at the Pentagon and at the State Department even they were saying we are at war with ISIS. Are we at war?"
On Wednesday, the eve of the thirteenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, President Obama will speak to the American people about his strategy for dealing with the rise of the Islamic State, the would-be caliphate bestriding Iraq and Syria, the most palpable and present threat to the region since Saddam Hussein invaded Iran and, later, Kuwait.
President Obama spoke about ISIS at length in his Meet the Press interview this morning, but he didn't offer much clarity as to what he's going to do about ISIS. One might say he's learned from bitter experience not to lay down red lines, and that he 's being purposefully vague.
All options are not on the table as President Obama figures out how to deal with the ongoing situation in Iraq. The president promised not to send U.S. troops back "into combat in Iraq."
"We will not be sending U.S. forces back into combat in Iraq but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraq's security forces. And I'll be reviewing those options in the days ahead," said Obama.
The Obama administration is facing mounting questions about the controversial prisoner swap that freed Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from jihadists in Pakistan in exchange for the transfer and ultimate release of five senior Taliban commanders previously held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Media reports suggest that President Obama is looking to declare victory and withdraw from Afghanistan, as he did from Iraq. The military commander in Afghanistan, General Joe Dunford, has said that he needs 10,000 US troops to accomplish the missions the president has said he wants to accomplish after this year.