Defense Secretary Jim Mattis downplayed reports that the Pentagon was considering deploying US ground combat troops to Iraq and Syria, but he didn’t rule it out.

Asked about a CNN report that the Pentagon might propose sending US troops to expedite the fight against ISIS, Mattis said he was not “comfortable answering on my own at this point” on the troop recommendation.

“I first want to talk to the other allies and we’ll decide where we’re going,” Mattis said from Brussels, after leading a defense-ministers meeting on the anti-ISIS campaign at NATO headquarters.

He said those discussions would begin soon.

“I’m going to fly from here into the Middle East,” he said, according to Military.com. “Once we know what we have in a mutual appreciation of the situation, then we’ll go forward.”

The report that the Pentagon was weighing the recommendation to send ground troops — which the Pentagon would neither confirm nor deny — would mark a significant shift in the US’s role in fighting ISIS.

US special forces troops Mosul Iraq ISIS
A member of the US Army takes position at the US section of a base for Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga forces in Makhmour, southeast of Mosul, Iraq, December 23, 2016. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily

 

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Featured image courtesy of AP.