Inhofe Statement on US Boots on the Ground in Syria

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), released the following statement responding to the president’s announcement that the administration is placing special operation forces on the ground in Syria:

“For more than a year, the president has bucked the advice of his top military leaders to not rule out American boots on the ground as part of the United States’ strategy against ISIS. His talking points have been communicating to the enemy a lack of resolve and U.S. leadership. While the president may now be indicating a pivot in his response to ISIS, he still has not laid out a strategy for our fight against the terrorist organization or for our involvement throughout the Middle East. Instead, the president is playing a dangerous game by incrementally deploying our special force operatives inside Syria. History has shown that a gradual increase in military force to achieve a non-existent strategy is a recipe for failure. The president needs to layout the United States’ objective for President Bashar Assad and ISIS, as this conflict is clearly on the verge of becoming a proxy war with the direct involvement of Russia and Iran. The president must also address how he intends to adequately ensure our military in Syria have the resources they need and the full support of our armed forces behind them. Without a comprehensive strategy, we are putting our troops at great risk and our national security in even greater danger.”

While serving as ranking member of SASC in the 113th Congress, Inhofe often spoke out in hearings, letters, and statements of his concerns for the president’s lack of policy and long-term strategy in Syria. 

Specifically, on Sept. 16, 2014, Inhofe participated in a SASC hearing on U.S. policy towards Iraq, Syria, and ISIL, where he said in his opening statement, “I’m not advocating an army division or combat elements on the ground, but it is foolhardy for the Obama administration to tie the hands and so firmly rule out the possibility of air controllers and special operators on the ground to direct air strikes and advise fighter forces. It sends the wrong message to our troops, to the enemy, and to partners.”

It was in the same hearing that in response to Inhofe’s questions, Gen. Martin Dempsey, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted he would advise the president to put “boots on the ground” in Syria if an American plane were to be shot down. Dempsey also stated in the hearing that he would advise a different course, to include boots on the ground against ISIS, if the current strategy failed. 

The following day, President Obama spoke at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida where he continued to reinforce that he had ruled out “boots on the ground” as a strategy to in Iraq and Syria.