United States Secretary of Defense Ash Carter admitted Friday that there will be U.S. boots on the ground in Iraq in order to help defeat the Islamic State group, which has strongholds in the north of the country and in neighboring Syria.
The Pentagon chief made the admission during an appearance on CNBC’s at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, backtracking on the long-held White House line that regular U.S. troops would not be used to fight the Islamic State militants in Iraq.
“We’re looking for opportunities to do more, and there will be boots on the ground — I want to be clear about that — but it’s a strategic question, whether you are enabling local forces to take and hold, rather than trying to substitute for them,” Carter said.
Carter and U.S. President Barack Obama have both on numerous occasions ruled out such measures in Syria and Iraq, fearing being drawn into another long and drawn-out war in the Middle East.
U.S combat troops fought in Iraq for nearly nine years, while the conflict in Afghanistan continued for a little over 13. Nearly 6,700 U.S. troops died, and 53,000 were injured, in both conflicts.