Iraqis, Syrian Opposition Should Be US Main Forces Against IS: Former CIA Director

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The Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS) is unlikely to be defeated without boots on the ground and the United States should consider making Iraqis and the Syrian opposition its main forces in the fight against the extremist group, said Leon Panetta, former CIA director and US Secretary of Defense.

WASHINGTON, October 15 (RIA Novosti) - The Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS) is unlikely to be defeated without boots on the ground and the United States should consider making Iraqis and the Syrian opposition its main forces in the fight against the extremist group, said Leon Panetta, former CIA director and US Secretary of Defense.

"We need boots on the ground, they don’t have to be United States boots on the ground," Panetta said during his book launch event at the George Washington University in Washington, DC on Tuesday. "We can use the Iraqis in Iraq as our main force to try to regain the territory loss to ISIS. We can use hopefully the opposition that we trained and armed in Syria as our main boots on the ground in Syria in the future."

US President Barack Obama should keep all options on the table, Panetta underlined.

"In the event that you are confronting an enemy you may very well have to use different options that are recommended to you by the military, or recommended as a result of having to confront a very resilient enemy," he concluded.

The IS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has been fighting the Syrian government since 2012. In June 2014, the group extended its attacks to northern and western Iraq and declared an Islamic caliphate on the territories under its control.

A US-led coalition is currently carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Syria and Iraq. US President Barack Obama's anti-IS strategy also includes bolstering a ground force of Kurds, Iraqis and moderate elements of Syria's opposition.

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