Ex-NATO chief calls for more US troops in Iraq

A former NATO commander called on the U.S. to send more ground troops to Iraq to help local forces fight an offensive by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL). 

The U.S. has more than 700 troops in the country, including about 250 advisers there to assess the security situation as the Sunni militant group advances.

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But Retired Adm. James Stavridis told the Military Times on Monday that "many more" advisers are needed on the ground to provide direct assistance and fight alongside Iraqi forces. 

“I think we probably need triple that with some enablers and conventional protective mechanisms around them,” said Stavridis, now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. 

The U.S. has also beefed up its surveillance flights, and last week began airstrikes on ISIS targets and humanitarian aid drops to help refugees, but Stavridis insists troops on the ground are necessary.

“A drone is a wonderful high-level view, but it doesn’t have the feel and the granularity of an observer of the ground,” said Stavridis. 

“You cannot provide significant defensive positions. You can only knock down incoming offensive capability,” he continued.

Stavridis also said U.S. troops should operate alongside Iranian forces to begin advising Iraqi troops.

“We’ve got to operate alongside Iranian forces, if necessary, because the greater threat to the United States is the rise of a caliphate, and one that has already sworn ‘to fly its flag over the White House’ — that’s extremely concerning,” he said.

Stavridis, though, said U.S. troops should not fight alongside Iranian forces, but work to prevent a “cross-fire situation.” 

“We’re not going to be Iran’s allies in this particular case, we have some common interests. We’re going to operate in the same battle space,” he continued. 

“Therefore, it would behoove us to have at least a minimum of coordination, probably via the Iraqi government and the Iraqi armed forces."