Thursday, September 18, 2014





While Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stumbled repeatedly as he read his opening statement out loud, Gen Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff, managed to read from his prepared remark with considerable ease -- even when his remarks were shocking.

Gen Martin Dempsey:  At this juncture, our advisors are intended to help the Iraqis develop a mindset for the offensive and the actions to match it. Our military advisors will help the Iraqis conduct campaign planning, arrange for enabler and logistics support, and coordinate Coalition contributions. To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisors should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the President. 

This was not stated in response to a question.  This statement was not uttered in surprise.

It was part of Dempsey's prepared remarks, submitted in writing before the start of the hearing and read out loud at the start of the hearing.

The fact that it rejects Barack's insistence that there will be no US 'combat' troops in Iraq did not appear to phase Dempsey or, for that matter, Hagel who sat next to him as Dempsey made the statement -- and made the statement mere minutes after Hagel was declaring

To support Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish forces, the President announced last week that we would deploy an additional 475 American troops to Iraq.  Part of that number includes approximately 150 advisors and support personnel to supplement forces already in Iraq conducting assessments of the Iraqi Security Forces. This assessment mission is now transitioning to an advise-and-assist mission, with more than 15 teams embedding with Iraqi Security Forces at the headquarters level to provide strategic and operational advice and assistance.  The rest of the additional 475 troops include 125 personnel to support intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions out of Erbil and 200 personnel to increase headquarters elements in both Baghdad and Erbil . . . helping us better coordinate military activities across Iraq.  By the time all these forces arrive, there will be approximately 1,600 U.S. personnel in Iraq responding to the ISIL threat. But, as the President said last week, "American forces will not have a combat mission."

From Hagel repeating Barack's claim of "American forces will not have a combat mission" to Dempsey declaring, "To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisors should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the President." 

All before a single question was asked.

And these prepared statements?

They're not only delivered in writing ahead of time to the Congressional Committees, they're distributed throughout the administration.

The White House signed off on Dempsey's remarks.

It is their trial balloon?

Or their cover-your-ass moment where Barack can come back later, after US troops are fighting (there are credible reports already that they are fighting alongside the Kurdish peshmerga) and say, "Well we told Congress it was a possibility"?

Certainly, Iraq's news outlets treated the remarks by Dempsey as news.  All Iraq News filed multiple stories noting the remarks, "The US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Martin Dempsey, hinted Tuesday that he would consider recommending a more direct involvement of US ground troops in the military's ongoing campaign against the extremist group calling itself the Islamic State (also ISIS or ISIL)," "Dempsey, who has long been reluctant to re-introduce US forces into Middle Eastern wars, signaled that some of the 1,600 US military “advisers” Obama deployed to Iraq since June may directly fight Isis, despite Obama’s frequent public assurances that US ground troops will not engage in combat," and "The US head of the US Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey,  stated that the US advisors might accompany the Iraqi security forces in their military operations."

Sidebar, Dempsey was never "reluctant."

I don't know where All Iraq News is getting that.

We were at the 2011 hearing where Dempsey, sitting next to then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, was chomping at the bit for US forces to remain in Iraq.

You may remember that because we covered it here.  I believe only the New York Times bothered to cover it elsewhere.

But in the years that followed, people have called Senator John McCain a liar for his version of the drawdown backstory.  He's not been lying or even misinformed and we've defended him on that.

It'll be interesting to see if anyone notes what Dempsey said in the hearing, during McCain's questioning, after Hagel begged off answering.  Dempsey returned to that 2011 hearing testimony.  Again, it'll be interesting to see who covers that or ignores it.

Dempsey didn't just raise the point of US forces being in a combat role in Iraq once.

He raised it repeatedly in the hearing.  For example, in response to Chair Levin's questions in the opening round, Dempsey would declare, "As I said in my [opening] statement, however, my view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward.  I believe that will prove true.   But if it fails to be true and if there are threats to the United States then I would of course go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of US military ground forces." 

Another example?  Ranking Member Jim Inhofe asked about the issue in his round of questioning.

Ranking Member Jim Inhofe:  In your opinion, let me ask you two questions, Gen Dempsey.  In your opinion, are the pilots dropping bombs in Iraq -- as they're now doing -- a direct combat mission?  And, secondly, will US forces be prepared to provide combat search and rescue if a pilot gets shot down?  Will they put boots on the ground to make that rescue successful?

Gen Martin Dempsey: Yes.  And yes.

Are you following it?

Dempesy says he'd recommend ground forces if things got more violent.

And if a US pilot was shot down.


We'll note this exchange from the hearing.

Senator Jack Reed: Gen Dempsey, we've had a debate going on and on about some boots on the ground, no boots on the ground, no boots on the ground but military personnel on the ground.  It might help us all if you could clarify precisely what our forces are doing in Iraq today.  And you've also suggested that if the situation changes, you might recommend -- or come to us with recommendations that they would enhance their mission or change their mission.  Can you clarify what they're doing? 

Gen Martin Dempsey: I can.  Thanks for asking, Senator.  The -- First of all, I think everyone should be aware when we talk about "combat forces," that's all we grow.  When we bring a young man or woman in the military, they come in to be a combat soldier or a combat Marine or a combat -- We don't bring them in to be anything else other than combat capable.  But that's different than how we use them.  And in the case of our contributions in Iraq right now, the airmen, as the Chair -- as the Ranking Member mentioned, are very much in a combat role.  The folks on the ground are in a very much advisory role. They are not participating in direct combat.  There is no intention for them to do so. I've mentioned, though, that if I found that circumstance evolving that I would, of course, change my recommendation.  An example, if-if the Iraqi security forces and the peshmerga were ready to retake Mosul a-a mission that I would find extraordinarily complex, it could very well be part of that particular mission to provide close combat advising or accompanying for that mission.  But for the day to day activities that I anticipate will evolve over time, I don't see it to be necessary right now.
So he'll also recommend US forces on the ground in combat if he feels the Iraqi military is undertaking a "complex" mission?

 Dempsey appears to be preparing reasons/excuses for US forces to go into combat -- in fact, thus far, everything short of an unprovoked sneeze would appear to result in Dempsey calling for US troops on the ground in combat.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"