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Opinion
Eli Lake and Josh Rogin

Iraq Doesn't Want the Ground Troops Hawks Are Offering

Iranian pressure means Obama couldn't send large numbers into combat.
Training, yes. Combat, no.

Training, yes. Combat, no.

Photographer: John Moore/Getty Images

As the U.S. special operations presence in Iraq grows, President Barack Obama's diplomats are promising its government he has no intention of sending large contingents of combat troops to join those well-trained fighters already on the ground. There is a good reason for this: Iraq and Iran don't want them.

U.S. officials tell us Iraq's prime minister, Haidar al-Abadi, has asked the U.S. for more equipment, more training and more air support. But he has been clear that his government opposes any influx of U.S. combat troops like those that fought inside Iraq between 2003 and 2011. "Ground troops at this point is just not politically sustainable in Iraq," one senior State Department official said. This official added that Baghdad's opposition to ground forces "put a ceiling" on what the U.S. could offer militarily.