The top U.S. military officer declined repeatedly on Thursday to rule out committing U.S. ground troops to battle the Islamic State in Syria, stressing that the Pentagon will present President Donald Trump with “a full range of options” to combat the terror organization.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the comments at a Washington research center as the 30 days that President Donald Trump gave military leaders to develop a strategy to fight the Islamic State are almost up.
“I’m in the business of providing the president with options,” Dunford said several times at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C. when repeatedly pressed on whether those choices would include conventional ground troops.
Following through on a campaign promise, Trump ordered a 30-day review of the U.S. strategy to fight the Islamic State on Jan. 28. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to present him with the plan next week, according to the Pentagon.
Dunford said the recommendations also will include ways to battle transnational terrorist groups beyond just Syria and Iraq, especially given the flow of foreign fighters into the region.
“We’ve been given a task to go to the president with options to accelerate the defeat of ISIS specifically, but obviously other violent extremist groups as well,” he said, using a common acronym for the Islamic State. “So we’re going to go to him with a full range of options from which he can chose.”
Those options would also target al Qaida, he said.
In his first week in office, Trump said he would “absolutely do safe zones in Syria” for people displaced by the violence in order to stem the flow of refugees from the country. Establishing such safe zones would require boots on the ground.
Source: McClatchy DC | VERA BERGENGRUEN