U.S. ground forces may again be deployed to Iraq, outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hinted on Friday.
“I think it may require a forward deployment of some of our troops,” he told CNN.
Hagel stated troops wouldn't operate as frontline fighters, but instead support Iraqi government forces in spotting Islamic State group targets and gathering intelligence. He also stated he is unsure whether such a deployment is yet needed.
“I would say we're not there yet. Whether we get there or not, I don't know,” he said.
Despite a pledge by President Barack Obama that there would be “no boots on the ground” in the fight against the Islamic State group, around 4500 U.S. troops are already in Iraq. The administration says the troops are primarily providing training to Iraqi government forces, and will not directly face the Islamic State group.
However, Hagel himself has acknowledged las year, “This is a long-term effort.”
“It’s difficult. There will be setbacks. There will be victories,” he said ahead of a visit to Baghdad in December.
The surprise visit was the first time Hagel has been to Iraq since he became defense secretary in February, 2013.
It also followed the announcement of Hagel's sudden resignation in November. Obama has tapped Ashton Carter as the next defense secretary.
“Carter has been through the revolving door between industry, the military and academia — advising Goldman Sachs and other investment firms on military technology along the way,” nuclear disarmament campaigner Alice Slater said when Carter's nomination was announced.
Slater warned that Carter has advocated for an expanded U.S. military presence in Asia, and was “instrumental in establishing the policy that led to the new demonization of Russia which we see today.”
“Carter also advised Obama on expanding the U.S. empire to Asia in the so-called Asia pivot, which resulted in new bases in the Pacific, expanded missile shields with Japan and South Korea, and actually stationing troops in Australia,” she stated.