General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and US defense secretary Chuck Hagel testified before the House armed services committee today with regards to the fight against ISIS. He reiterated that the retaking of Mosul and reestablishing an actual border between Iraq and Syria are key but might prove too difficult for the Iraqi army. Last week, Obama took the number of “advisers” to help the Iraqi’s and the Kurds to over 3,000 nearly doubling the present in-country U.S. presence.

“I’m not predicting at this point that I would recommend that those forces in Mosul and along the border would need to be accompanied by US forces, but we’re certainly considering it,” he said.

Dempsey Says Ground Troops May Be Needed In Fight Against ISIS

Not 150,000 troops but more

The two said that any troops increases would be “modest” and at no point saw the return of the force used to oust Saddam Hussein.

“I just don’t foresee a circumstance when it would be in our interest to take this fight on ourselves with a large military contingent,” Dempsey said.

Dempsey tempered that warning that if Iraqi forces proved unwilling or unable to properly recover the  “al-Anbar province and Ninewa province”, the primary regions held by Isis or if new Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi exclude Sunnis from power, “I will have to adjust my recommendations,” Dempsey said.

The chair of the House armed services committee, Rep. Buck McKeon, made it clear that he wouldn’t support congressional approval of a war against ISIS if ground troops were ruled out saying, “I will not support sending our military into harm’s way with their arms tied behind their backs.”

ISIS and worry about 2002

At the same time that they wouldn’t rule out more troops on the ground, they made it clear that air strikes would increase as more American soldiers assist the Iraqi military along with the Kurds.

“It looks like we’re going down the same road that Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told us that we had to do,” Representative Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican referring to the case made by the Bush administration for a war in Iraq in 2002.

Before Congress, Dempsey pled for “strategic patience” with a war that will take many years given the haste by which ISIS snatched land in both Iraq and Syria.

“Progress purchases patience,” Dempsey said.