A top general recently disputed the Obama administration’s claim that American forces are not in combat operations in the Middle East.
Gen. John Kelly, the commander of U.S. Southern Command and America’s longest serving general, voiced the criticisms in an interview with Defense One, suggesting that the administration is doing a "disservice" to military members by not acknowledging that boots are on the ground.
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"If there’s a country and it’s dangerous and we deploy a U.S. military man or woman, if there’s only one there, and they never leave the capital, that is ‘boots on the ground,’" Kelly, a Marine for 45 years, said. "We do a disservice to the sacrifice of these people, particularly if they are killed, when we say there’s no boots on the ground."
President Obama has insisted that there are no American boots on the ground in Syria or Iraq despite the Pentagon deploying dozens of U.S. special forces there to help in the fight against terrorist group ISIS.
Kelly, who will retire at the end of January, also took issue with a number of items on the Obama administration’s agenda, including the president’s push to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison despite increasing terrorism concerns and evidence that former Guantanamo detainees have rejoined terrorist groups.
The general particularly criticized the administration’s argument that Guantanamo serves as a propaganda tool for ISIS and that the terrorists are protesting the military prison by executing their captives in orange jumpsuits.
"What I see are animals acting like brutal animals," he said, adding that Guantanamo prisoners wear beige. "If they execute these poor sons of guns in orange jumpsuits and we say, ‘ah, see, that’s a good example of how Gitmo…’ That’s full of sh–. I think it’s not accurate."
Kelly also voiced disagreement with Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s order to open up all combat jobs to women despite objections from Gen. Joseph Dunford, the former Marine Corps commandant and current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Kelly told reporters Friday that military leaders will face "great pressure" to lower standards to allow more women to serve in combat roles.
"There will be great pressure, whether it’s 12 months from now, four years from now, because the question will be asked whether we’ve let women into these other roles, why aren’t they staying in those other roles?" Kelly said.
"If we don’t change standards, it will be very, very difficult to have any numbers–any real numbers come into the infantry, or the Rangers or the Seals, but that’s their business."