Army chief: No ‘mission creep’ in ISIS fight

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno says the deployment of hundreds more military personnel to Iraq and possibly new bases in the country are not a sign of “mission creep.” 

“I don’t think it’s mission creep,” Odierno said Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” He called the administration’s moves just “an expansion of the current policy of attempting to train additional Iraqi forces” in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The administration announced this week that 450 more advisers are heading to Iraq to train local forces. And on Thursday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters the strategy against ISIS could require opening multiple bases inside Iraq to serve as “lily pads” near the front lines to help support local troops.

{mosads}Such a move could also allow for even more U.S. troops and personnel in the future.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest described the plans for more bases as “all very hypothetical,” but the Army’s top officer seemed to embrace them.

“By putting more bases out, they’re trying to reach out to the Sunnis, frankly,” according to Odierno.

“What’s happened inside of Iraq is you have a Shia army. You have a Kurdish army in the north, you have no Sunnis participating,” he added. “And that’s the fundamental problem. And so, what they’re trying to do is let’s get people closer to them, get them in to train them, make them part of the army.”

The four-star said the fight against ISIS “can’t be a U.S. problem only. We need the nations in the region to step up and be part of the solution.” 

“You certainly need to be there to enable them and help them to do that. Or we’ll end up right back where we are now,” Odierno added.

“What we don’t want it to be perceived of is that we’re going to go in and we’re going to fight this fight for them,” he said of the Iraqis. “They’ve got to do this; they’ve got to do it in the region. We’re willing to enable them to do it.

But Odierno cautioned that “if 10 years from now we believe there’s a threat to the United — absolute existential threat to the United States — that’s a different issue.” 

Tags Iraq ISIS Ray Odierno

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