Two retired military generals who've been engaged in efforts to train Iraqi soldiers agreed Sunday that airstrikes alone are “insufficient” to address the growing terrorist threat in the Middle East, and that any effort must include boots on the ground.


Retired Army Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union on Sunday,” told host Candy Crowley she was “right to say the air strikes are necessary but insufficient.”

“They have to be in conjunction with three other campaigns,” he said.

Those campaigns include U.S. special operations forces, arming moderate rebels and providing advisers to the Iraqi security forces, who he said would initially be “relatively safe.”

“But once the counteroffensive begins,  I think they’ll be at risk too,” he added.

Dubik’s acknowledgment that American soldiers may be put at risk in confronting the growing threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) comes as Congress contemplates whether, and how, to support President Obama’s stated plans to address the threat militarily.

White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough, speaking shortly before the generals, acknowledged that “there is inherent risk” in the president’s plans to tackle ISIS that American lives may be lost.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton agreed with Eaton, that boots on the ground are necessary for success.

He also diagnosed the problem with the Iraqi military as a “moral” issue, and said it’s one that must be addressed systemically within the Iraqi political system.

“You build a soldier physically…but there’s what the British call the ‘moral component,’” he said — that the soldier “believes in his chain of command, that he is a legitimate actor on behalf of a legitimate government.”

“That’s the issue…and it goes back to this political legitimacy that we have to build in a vertical structure in Iraq in order for our Iraqi soldiers to understand they are legitimate actors,” he said.