"When are actual boots-on-the-ground, not Presidential promise-breaking boots-on-the-ground?" ... when, as The Washington Post reports, those 'boots' are protected by 'legal alchemy' called Title 50... simply put, as Ignatius concludes, "U.S. boots are already on the ground, and more are coming. The question is whether Obama will decide to say so publicly, or remain in his preferred role as covert commander in chief."
Here's Obama from earlier:
- *OBAMA REITERATES HE WON'T COMMIT TO ANOTHER GROUND WAR IN IRAQ
- *OBAMA WON'T `REVIEW OR CONSIDER' COMBAT TROOP OPTION: EARNEST
- *EARNEST: NO COMBAT TROOPS IS A `STRATEGIC DECISION'
Here’s a national-security riddle: How can President Obama provide limited military support on the ground to help “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State without formally violating his pledge not to send U.S. combat troops? The answer may lie in the legal alchemy known as “Title 50.”
Title 50 of the U.S. Code regulates the activities of the Central Intelligence Agency. An often-cited passage is Section 413(b), which deals with presidential approval and reporting of “covert actions.” In essence, this statute gives the president authority, with a proper “finding,” to send U.S. Special Operations forces on paramilitary operations, under the command of the CIA. The best-known example was the 2011 raid on Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed Osama bin Laden.
Iraqis and Syrians tell me that U.S. Special Operations forces will be decisive in training the Sunni fighters who can carry the battle into the streets of Mosul, Fallujah and Raqqah. Obama must decide whether this mission is better performed overtly or covertly - but the Americans who will be doing the training will be the same warriors, drawn from such units as the Army’s 5th Special Forces Group.
The decisive issue is whether these U.S. special forces should be embedded with the Iraqi and Syrian forces they train — and accompany them into battle, where they can coordinate tactics and call in air support. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in congressional testimony Tuesday that “where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific [Islamic State] targets, I’ll recommend that to the president.”
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We leave it to Ignatius to conclude...
Let’s be honest: U.S. boots are already on the ground, and more are coming. The question is whether Obama will decide to say so publicly, or remain in his preferred role as covert commander in chief.