So much for avoiding "boots on the ground."
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the nation's top military officer, declared in testimony to Congress on Tuesday that American combat troops may be needed to battle Islamic State forces in the Middle East if the Obama administration's proposed campaign of airstrikes and humanitarian aid proves ineffective, the Associated Press reported.
"To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the president," Dempsey said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
"It could very well be part of that particular mission to provide close combat advising or accompanying for that mission. But for the day-to-day activities that I anticipate will evolve over time, I don't see it to be necessary right now.
Dempsey's remarks are probably playing well with some of the more hawkish politicians — mainly Republicans — who believe ground troops might be the best option.
"An F-16 is not a strategy," said Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) earlier this week. "And airstrikes alone will not accomplish what we're trying to accomplish. The president's made clear that he doesn't want boots on the ground, well somebody's boots have to be on the ground."
Still, with the American public skittish about getting dragged into another prolonged campaign in the Middle East, the Obama administration has been careful to emphasize that boots probably won't be hitting the ground anytime soon.
"[President Obama] will not deploy ground troops in a combat role into Iraq or Syria," said spokesman Josh Earnest.