Kerry backtracks on US 'boots on the ground in Syria' comments
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the topic of "The Authorization of Use of Force in Syria" in Washington, DC. (AFP)
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US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday briefly eluded to putting US troops on the ground in Syria before immediately taking the option off the table, citing Congress' approval.
Kerry's comments, made during the first public hearing in Congress on possible military action in Syria, brought the worries of many US lawmakers about the possible extent of the US' involvement in Syria to a head. Many top US lawmakers have hangups about US President Barack Obama's mission to punish the Syrian government for its alleged chemical weapons use, according to Reuters.
Kerry, speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committe, said he would prefer not to completely rule out the possibility of putting US soliders on the ground in Syria so that if Syria "imploded", Obama's options would be kept open.
"I don't want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to a president of the United States to secure our country," Kerry told the committee, Reuters reported.
Kerry hastily backtracked on his comments after Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the committee, told Kerry he "didn't find that a very appropriate response regarding boots on the ground," according to Reuters.
Trying to gloss over the situation, the Secretary of State told the Sentate committee that he was simply "thinking out loud" and raising a hypothetical situation, but he did not want to leave the door open to sending ground troops to Syria.
"Let's shut the door now," Kerry said, according to Reuters. "The answer is, whatever prohibition clarifies it to Congress or the American people, there will not be American boots on the ground with respect to the civil war."
The meeting of the committee came as Kerry, Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made a visit to Capitol Hill in a bid to persuade Congress to back Obama's plan to launch a "narrow and limited" strike on Syria that will take out government arms and chemical weapons stockpiles.
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