Former Pentagon chief: Give US troops in Iraq more latitude

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Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says President Obama should expand the rules of engagement for U.S. troops assisting Iraqi military forces so that they can play a larger role in the fight against Islamic militants.

“If the mission he has set for the military is to degrade and destroy [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria], the rules of engagement that he has imposed on them prevent them from achieving that mission,” Gates said this weekend in an interview with Yahoo News.

{mosads}He said that U.S advisers should be embedded at the battalion level because “you have to be close to the fight to be able to provide the kind of guidance and, frankly, some spine to the Iraqis.”

His comments come days after the White House announced it would deploy another 450 troops to train and advise Iraq’s military.

Gates also criticized Obama for admitting the U.S. doesn’t have a “complete strategy” for defeating ISIS

“Just adding another few hundred troops doing more of the same I think is not likely to make much of a difference,” he said.

“We have to figure out what our strategy is. We should have had a strategy a year ago that took into account differences within the Iraqi government and the sectarian difference in the country and so on,” Gates added. 

“If we think ISIS is truly a threat to the United States and to our interests we have to be willing to put Americans at risk. That’s just a fact of life,” he added. 

But, Gates said, that “doesn’t mean we re-invade Iraq.” He noted that the addition of 450 troops brings the total figure in country to around 3,500, which is “probably about right.”

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