Top general: U.S. should consider boots on ground in Iraq

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Story highlights

  • The general said that had the U.S. not withdrawn all troops from Iraq in 2011, "we may not have been where we are now."
  • President Barack Obama has since steadfastly opposing sending more troops back to Iraq.

Washington (CNN)The top Army general said Wednesday that the U.S should consider embedding soldiers in Iraq if the battle against ISIS doesn't improve.

"If we find in the next several months that we aren't making progress, we should absolutely consider embedding some soldiers (in Iraq)," Gen. Raymond Odierno, outgoing Army chief of staff, said in response to a CNN question about putting troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria at his final press conference. He called it an "option we should present to the President."
But he stopped short of making the same suggestion in Syria.
"Syria is different," he said.
Odierno rejected the idea, however, of the U.S. taking over the fight against ISIS: "I absolutely believe the region has to solve this problem. The U.S. can't solve this."
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He later suggested breaking up Iraq and Syria could be part of the solution. "My assessment would be it will be difficult to have a Syria that looks like it did before."
The general also said that had the U.S. not withdrawn all troops from Iraq in 2011, "we may not have been where we are now," while also noting that the withdrawal was negotiated under President George W. Bush.
It was left to President Barack Obama to seal the deal on the pace of the withdrawal and any residual troops, eventually pulling all of them out. He has since steadfastly opposing sending more troops back to Iraq.
The position has been a focus of attacks from Republican candidates, who have called for more aggressive action against ISIS.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush offered a sharp critique of Obama's ISIS strategy Tuesday night, saying that he would embed U.S. troops with Iraqi forces.