The State Department said Monday that the Obama administration never promised "no boots on the ground" in Syria, despite nearly two years' worth of reassurances from President Obama that say otherwise.
State Department spokesman John Kirby categorically denied that Obama vowed not to send U.S. forces to Syria to fight the ISIS, which led to a heated exchange between Kirby and Associated Press reporter Matt Lee.
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"For months and months and months, the mantra from the president and everyone else in the administration has been ‘no boots on the ground,’ and now–" Lee said before Kirby cut him off.
"No, that is not true," Kirby said.
"What?" Lee asked in disbelief.
"It’s just not true, Matt," Kirby said.
"It is," Lee shot back.
"That’s just not true," Kirby said again.
"It’s true," Lee said.
"No, it’s not. I just flatly, absolutely, disagree with you," Kirby said and banged his fist on the lectern.
Lee said that the administration had asserted numerous times that it would not send troops to Syria, but Kirby relented.
"OK, your predecessor up here, you know, it was all options are on the table except boots on the ground, that was the–" Lee said.
"I never said that," Kirby said.
Kirby then said that the Obama administration was not "saying one thing and then doing the other completely."
"I’m absolutely rejecting that thesis," Kirby said.
Obama said that he was "not considering any boots-on-the-ground approach" in August 2013. He repeated the claim the next day, saying that while the United States would be taking "military action" in Syria, it would not involve "boots on the ground."
In September of that year, the president said that Syria "is not Iraq, and this is not Afghanistan," and vowed again that America’s "military plan…does not involve boots on the ground."
He used the mantra six more times that September, again in February 2014, three times in September 2014, once in November 2014, once in February 2015, and again in July 2015.
Obama announced Monday that he would send 250 more U.S. troops to fight ISIS in Syria, a significant addition to the 50 U.S. special operations forces already fighting there.