US edges up to Mission Creep in Middle East

WASHINGTON (TIP): Mission Creep, a term that has come to describe a gradual shift in objectives during the course of a military campaign, often resulting in unplanned long-term commitment, came into the American lexicon during the Somali civil war in the 1990s. On Tuesday, it crept back into US parlor talk after a top American general suggested ground forces may be required to meet President Barack Obama’s pledge to degrade and destroy the Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria.

US Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the President’s top military adviser, laid it out tactfully. ”My view at this point is that this (American-led) coalition is the appropriate way forward.

I believe that will prove true,” General Dempsey said at a Congressional hearing, expressing confidence that the IS could be defeated. ”But if it fails to be true, and if there are threats to the United States,” he added, he would go back to the President and ”make a recommendation that may include the use of US military ground forces.” The remarks jolted the capital’s punditry, which has been stewing about an American return to the Middle-East minefield just three years or so after Obama fulfilled his campaign pledge to pull out US troops from the region after a decade-long war that cost the country more than a trillion dollars.

On his part, Dempsey acknowledged that recommending re-induction of US forces would run counter to the president’s policy, but the President, he said, ”has told me as well to come back to him on a case-by-case basis.” The White House demurred about any change in policy, saying, ”It’s the responsibility of the president’s military advisers to plan and consider all the wide range of contingencies,” and what Dempsey was referring to was a ”hypothetical scenario.” Obama has repeatedly said there will be no boots on the ground in the sense of US troops having combat missions, but administration officials have indicated that military advisors and special forces may be inducted on a case-by-case basis to train and guide Iraqi and Kurdish forces taking on the ISIS.

Already, the US has inducted more than 1,600 military advisors and special troops, ostensibly to safeguard US diplomatic missions and personnel. But some are also believed to be helping pinpoint airstrikes and train pro- American forces. The fear in the capital and across the country is that this may creep up to tens of thousands. Some war enthusiasts are already asking how the 5000 Syrian rebels the US is training can take on an Islamic State force that the CIA estimates to be more than 30,000.

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