“But at the end, somebody needs to maintain the peace on the ground and that can't be us [the United States], because that's not our country,” Carter stated. “It has to be people from Iraq and from Syria and that's the logic behind our offering them that kind of assistance, rather than going in with a big ground force.”
Carter stressed that Washington’s support of local ground forces in Iraq and in Syria rather than US ground troops, is fundamental in ensuring the Islamic State is defeated in a lasting way.
“[I]t's really important that the people of Iraq and the people of Syria be the ones who sustain the defeat of ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] after ISIL is defeated,” Carter said.
A US-led Coalition of some 60 countries has been carrying airstrikes against the ISIL militants in Iraq and Syria since August 2014.
The United States and its allies have recently announced its first steps of a plan to screen moderate Syrian rebels for a US training program to fight against the ISIL.
In January, the US Defense Department announced a team of about 100 US troops were deployed in the Middle East to survey and prepare training locations.
The Islamic State is a Sunni extremist group that has taken over large portions of Syria and Iraq, and declared a caliphate on the territories under its control.