US staying firm in not sending combat troops to fight ISIL
The U.S. remains firm in its resolve not to send combat troops into Iraq or Syria. (File/AFP)
Despite the release of a recording, purportedly by ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, calling for expanded jihadi attacks throughout the Middle East, the U.S. remains firm in its resolve not to send combat troops into Iraq or Syria, a State Department official said Friday.
The new recording, in which Baghdadi purportedly tells his followers to “erupt volcanoes of jihad everywhere,” has not dissuaded President Barack Obama from arming Syrian and Iraqi allies rather than fighting ISIL on the ground.
“To defeat ISIL, the international coalition will count on Iraqi forces and pershmerga and Sunni tribes on the ground and the moderates in Syria rather than American [troops],” said Joshua Baker, a State Department Arabic-language spokesman. “The airstrikes will continue, but there will be no combat troops.”
“I think we have seen there are challenges related to foreign intervention in the region,” he added. “We don’t want to go back to 2003, or before that, to 1991.”
Moreover, it appeared that U.S. intelligence agencies have been unable to determine the authenticity of the recent tape. Baghdadi was rumored to have been wounded, or possibly killed in a coalition airstrike last week. “Until now, we’re not sure of the death of Baghdadi,” he said.
Baker added that rapid advances made by ISIL in recent months have been “heartbreaking” for the U.S., but that ultimately the blame lies with the governments of Iraq and Syria.
“These problems were the result of bad and failing polices of the regional governments,” he said.
He also acknowledged that the U.S. and its allies had been caught off guard by the gains that ISIL made over the summer in eastern Syria and western and northern Iraq. “U.S. intelligence and Iraqi forces were surprised by the advance [of ISIL] in Mosul and after that in north of Baghdad,” Baker explained.
Still, Baker insisted that more than 700 airstrikes conducted by the U.S. and a coalition of international partners have been effective. “Airstrikes actually prevented ISIL from advancing,” he said. “We have seen this in [the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab] and Amerli [in Iraq] ... and other places.”
The defeat of ISIL is not imminent and defeating the group will depend “on political decisions in Iraq and also inside Syria,” Baker said.
Still, the U.S. will continue to train and equip Iraqi forces to combat ISIL, he added. Rebuffing claims that the United States has softened its attitude toward the Syrian regime, Baker insisted that “the U.S. wants a political solution without the participation of Assad.”