US President Barack Obama explicitly stated in September 2013 that he would not put "American boots on the ground" in Syria – yet on Friday, when he breached that promise and ordered the deployment of 50 commandos, the US State Department "didn't know" whether that constituted a policy change.
State Department spokesperson John Kirby was put in the hot seat on Friday, when Reuters reporter Arshad Mohammed asked him at a press briefing about Obama's decision earlier in the day to deploy troops to fight Islamic State (ISIS).
Despite Obama's long-standing record of firmly denying he would deploy troops to Syria, Kirby claimed that the decision was not a policy change.
"So your previous policy did not encompass putting boots on the ground in Syria, your current strategy as outlined by the White House does include putting boots on the ground in Syria, but there is no change in policy there?” Mohammed asked.
Kirby answered, "the policy was that we weren’t going to engage in large-ground combat operations, large-scale offensive ground operations against ISIL (ISIS), and that is still not going to occur."
An incredulous Mohammed said, "but the policy was you didn’t have boots on the ground. That was a policy decision. The president could have put boots on the ground. He didn’t."
Kirby then claimed that he "didn't know" whether Obama had ruled out putting boots on the ground in Syria – even though Obama openly announced as far back as 2013 that he would not do so.
When pressed, Kirby said, "I’ll defer to my colleagues at the White House to speak to presidential policy here, I’m not aware that there was a policy about putting U.S. boots on the ground in Syria in any capacity whatsoever."
Not only did Obama break his word regarding deployment, but US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday said he could not rule out deploying more forces on the ground in Syria in the near future.
"I can't predict what the future will bring when our policy is to destroy Daesh (ISIS), to fight back against this evil. But I do think the president has made a judgement that I completely advocated for and concur in."