1. Obama has repeatedly promised that his war against ISIS will not involve U.S. ground troops in Iraq or Syria, but Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says they may be necessary. The White House argues that armed military “advisers” who call in air strikes, serve on the front lines, and could easily become involved in combat do not count as ground troops.
2. As proxies for U.S. soldiers in Syria, Obama is counting on the “appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition” whom Congress last week authorized the Pentagon to train and arm. On Tuesday he called them “the best counterweight to [ISIS] and the Assad regime.” But last month Obama told The New York Times the idea that U.S. assistance could turn “an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth” into an effective fighting force “has always been a fantasy.”
3. Obama says U.S. military assistance will be limited to “moderate Syrian opposition forces.” According to the bill approved by Congress, “appropriately vetted” rebels do not include groups linked to terrorist organizations such as the Nusra Front, a Syrian branch of Al Qaeda. But as the Times points out, “even the more secular forces have turned to Islamists for support and weapons over the years, and the remaining moderate rebels often fight alongside extremists like the Nusra Front.”