Special to WorldTribune.com
WASHINGTON â€” The United States has been preparing to expand its military role in Iraq and Syria.
Officials said the administration of President Barack Obama has drafted plans for combat operations in both Iraq and Syria as part of the war against Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. They said Washington would bolster its advisory mission in Iraq and prepare for air strikes on ISIL positions in northern Syria.
“This plan includes targeted actions against ISIL safe havens in Syria â€” including its command and control, logistics capabilities, and infrastructure,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said.
At the hearing, senators expressed concern over the expansion of the U.S. role against ISIL. Sen. Angus King said the United States could end up waging wars in Asia and Africa.
“This is geopolitical Wack-a-mole,” King said.
On Sept. 16, Hagel and other senior officials briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. military options against ISIL. The officials raised the prospect of air strikes as well as directing the Iraq Army to expand operations to the Syrian border.
“Because ISIL operates freely across the Iraqi-Syrian border, and maintains a safe haven in Syria, our actions will not be restrained by a border in name only,” Hagel said.
The proposed air strikes would comprise a major element in a plan outlined to Obama on Sept. 17. Hagel said the plan was drafted by U.S. Central Command, responsible for operations throughout most of the Middle
East, and could include the training of up to 5,000 Sunni rebels in Syria over the next year. Training was expected to take place in Saudi Arabia.
“Five thousand alone is not going to be able to turn the tide,” Hagel said. “We recognize that.”
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the U.S. military could embed personnel to help the Iraq Army recapture the northern city of Mosul. But Dempsey said he did not envision this in the short term.
“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,” Dempsey said. “But for the day-to-day activities that I anticipate will evolve over time, I don’t see it to be necessary right now.”
On Sept. 15, the U.S. Air Force expanded operations in Iraq when fighter-jets bombed a suspected ISIL stronghold southwest of Baghdad. Officials said the stronghold was the source of fire on Iraq Army soldiers.
“Three air strikes southwest of Baghdad damaged an ISIL truck and destroyed an ISIL anti-aircraft artillery piece, a small ISIL ground unit and two small boats on the Euphrates River that were re-supplying ISIL forces in the area,” Centcom said on Sept. 16.