Obama vs. Generals: Odierno Says ISIS War Needs Ground Troops

White House Starts Shifting Meaning of 'Ground Troops'

President Obama’s latest comments after his meeting with Centcom was pretty clear about his position of no combat operations being performed by US ground troops in Iraq, yet the Pentagon seems to continue to strongly disagree.

Following up on yesterday’s comments by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey saying ground combat was possible, Army Chief Gen. Ray Odierno is now saying he believes the war will certainly require ground combat for any chance of success.

Gen. Odierno couched his position as one determined to keep ISIS from having a “safe haven” in Iraq or Syria, and demanded that Congress begin debates to reverse the sequestration spending caps, which Congress has basically been ignoring anyhow.

The reality is that the White House is already starting to shift the definition of “ground troops,” and is admitting that, just as Dempsey said, those troops in Iraq are likely to take front-line positions. Officials are looking to likewise insist that special operations forces don’t actually count as “ground troops” for the promise.

Obama’s determination to keep the American public placated on the war, at least for the time being, by insisting that the war isn’t as big as it obviously is going to be, is running up against the generals’ desire to use the war as a platform for increased funding.

This risks an ongoing public struggle between the administration and the Pentagon on its rhetoric regarding the war, adding to confusion, some deliberate and some not, about what the war actually amounts to. The Pentagon tried to revise Odierno’s comments, insisting he meant Iraqi ground troops. It is an obvious attempt to manage to different narratives, but not a particularly convincing one.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.