The outgoing US Army chief of staff has said that the United States should increase efforts to fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS), and that putting military forces on the ground in Iraq and Syria might be the only way to do so.
General Raymond Odierno said at a Wednesday press conference that current US strategy in the region has helped deter IS in some ways, but that there is a long way to go to fully address the deeper economic and political issues facing Iraq and Syria.
"We should probably absolutely consider embedding some soldiers (with Iraqi forces), then see if that would make a difference," Odierno said in response to whether he thought the US should deploy ground forces if the situation does not improve.
"I think that's an option we should present to the president when the time is right," he added.
Odierno, who is retiring after 40 years of military service on Friday, was once the top US commander in Iraq and currently the Army chief of staff.
He also said that he had little hope that the warring Sunni and Shia communities in Iraq could reconcile, according to AFP. "It's becoming more difficult by the day," Odierno remarked, adding that future Iraq "might not look like it did in the past."
These statements alluded to the possibility that Iraq would be divided some day. Partition "might be the only solution, but I'm not ready to say that yet," said Odierno.
Odierno's statements comes the same day as US warplanes began targeting IS locations from a newly established base in southern Turkey. The use of the Incirlik base by NATO and US allies was a result of negotiations last month between the US, NATO, and Turkish officials. The negotiations also determined that Turkey will participate in the attacks against IS, reported the Times of Israel.
"Turkey and the United States will coordinate operations," an anonymous Turkish official told the news outlet.
On Monday, the Pentagon announced the arrival of six F-16 fighter planes and 300 members of the military to begin launching attacks this week. Both the US and Turkey "are committed to the fight against ISIL (IS) in the pursuit of peace and stability in the region," the Pentagon said in a statement.
Turkey has been carrying out limited strikes on IS but has been more focused on targeting Kurdish militias in the south of the country. Turkey's army said they carried out 17 strikes against Kurdish sites Monday night in response to a wave of attacks on Turkish security officials from the Kurdish separatist group, the PKK.
Reuters contributed to this reporting.