UPDATE 1800 GMT: President Obama has pledged again not to send combat forces against the Islamic State.
Obama, effectively countering the statement of the head of Joint Chiefs of Staff 24 hours earlier, told troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida:
American forces in Iraq will not have a combat mission. They will support Iraqi forces on the ground as they fight for their own country.
Invoking the success in killing Osama bin Laden, Obama reframed the campaign as a fight against terrorism: “We mean what we say. Our reach is long. If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven. We will find you eventually.”
As the head of the US military spoke of US ground troops in operations in Iraq, the Islamic State has promised “the flames of war” against any American forces.
General Martin Dempsey, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Congressional committee on Tuesday that US special forces might embed with Iraqi or Kurdish troops.
Dempsey noted that President Obama has promised no US troops will be on the ground, but said commanders have already requested the deployment of small teams of US advisors in battle: “[The President] has told me as well to come back to him on a case-by-case basis.”
The Islamic State has responded to the escalation of US operations, including more than 160 airstrikes since August 8, with a glossy video “trailer” for the upcoming conflict.
The 45-second film shows the destruction of US armored vehicles and troops in explosions before mocking President Obama’s announcement last week that “American combat troops will not be returning to Iraq”.
It concludes with the titles, “Flames of War: The Fighting Has Just Begun — Coming Soon”.
Parliament Rejects PM’s Nominees for Defense and Interior Ministers
The Iraqi Parliament rejected Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s nominees for Defense and Interior Ministers on Tuesday.
Sunni politician Jabir al-Jabiri was rebuffed as Defense Minister, with support from only 108 out of 251 MPs. Shia politician Riad Ghraib, a last-minute selection for Interior Minister after apparent rejection of a candidate from the Shia Badr bloc, received only 117 of 245 votes.
Abadi had made a personal intervention to ask for Parliamentary approval of the candidates.
Parliament adjourned until Thursday. It is unclear whether Abbadi will have new nominees by then.