10/12/2014 11:43 am ET Updated Oct 13, 2014

U.S. Doesn't Yet Need Ground Troops Against ISIS, General Says

The U.S. hasn't yet reached the point where it requires ground troops to battle the Islamic State, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

"Yeah, there will be circumstances when the answer to that question will likely be yes," said Dempsey. "But I haven't encountered one right now."

The chairman noted that one possible scenario requiring ground troops could come in the battle to retake Mosul, Iraq, a city currently held by the militant group sometimes called ISIS.

"My instinct at this point is that that will require a different kind of advising and assisting, because of the complexity of that fight," Dempsey said.

Dempsey also told ABC's Martha Raddatz that the U.S. recently had to call in Apache helicopters to help Iraqi forces fend off Islamic State fighters who were within about 15 miles of the Baghdad airport. He said he hadn't been asked to set up a no-fly zone over the area, but added that he could envision doing so.

One advocate for a no-fly zone, as well as for more "boots on the ground," is Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who offered a grim assessment of the situation on Sunday, saying he believed the militants were capable of taking the Baghdad airport.

"They're winning, and we're not," said McCain on CNN's "State of the Union." "The Iraqis are not winning. The Peshmerga, the Kurds are not winning."

McCain called for a re-evaluation of U.S. efforts, saying that thus far, American forces are "not degrading" or "ultimately destroying" the Islamic State.

But Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has strongly cautioned against the U.S. leading the fight against the Islamic State, voiced concerns that American involvement could backfire.

"Of course, ISIS is a brutal, awful, dangerous army and they've got to be defeated," Sanders told CNN host Candy Crowley. "But this is not just an American problem. This is an international crisis [...] and I think the American people are getting sick and tired of the world and the region -- Saudi Arabia and the other countries -- saying, 'We don't have to do anything about it.'"

"Here's the danger," Sanders continued. "If the Middle East people perceive this is the United States versus ISIS, West versus East, Christianity versus Islam, we're going to lose that war. This is a war for the soul of Islam, and the Muslim nations must be deeply involved."



Islamic State conflict in Turkey