In this file photo from Sept. 8, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a statement on the formation of the Iraqi government in Washington, D.C.

In this file photo from Sept. 8, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a statement on the formation of the Iraqi government in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Department of State)

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s new offensive against the Islamic State extremist group drew fire from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s top Republican on Wednesday, who said a war waged by local forces made “no sense” and could take a decade or longer.

Secretary of State John Kerry testified before the committee and tried to assure lawmakers that no ground troops would be sent to fight the extremist group in Iraq, just a day after the joint chiefs chairman said he may consider it.

Top administration officials received a mixed response during two days on Capitol Hill this week to bolster support for a plan to step up air strikes, arm and train moderate Syrian opposition forces, and to get support against the Islamic State from an international coalition — all without sending U.S. ground forces back into a war in Iraq.

On Tuesday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said he believes the U.S. can win the fight without fighting on the ground but that he may recommend it to the president if the situation changes.

“The U.S. troops that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission,” Kerry said.

The administration plans to soon have 1,600 troops in the country, including military advisors to Iraqi and Kurdish forces who are battling to take back territory from the Islamic State, which stormed the country earlier this year.

Also, no countries in a coalition of more than 50 have pledged any military ground support in Syria or Iraq, though there have been agreements on air strikes, Kerry said. He said the administration will release more details in the coming days on the coalition.

“At this point no country has been asked to put boots on the ground and no country is talking about it,” he said.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the committee's ranking member, pressed Kerry on the plans, asking “What Arab Sunni nation is going to have a ground force in Syria?”

Corker and the Senate committee voted last year — the only committee in Congress that did — to send support to Syrian rebels to fight against President Bashar al-Assad, who is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths during a three-year civil war.

But he said the administration is making a mistake this year by basing its entire “ground game” against the Islamic State on the rebels in Syria, who fight under the banner of the Free Syrian Army.

“We know the Free Syrian Army cannot take on ISIL,” said Corker, using an alternative name for the Islamist group. “You talk multi-year operations — we are talking decades, if that is going to be our salvation.”

Congress is now debating legislation to fund President Barack Obama’s plan to arm and train the Syrian fighters.

Many lawmakers say the country must defeat the Islamic State but there remains deep doubts over the Syria effort and it was unclear Wednesday whether the administration would receive the go-ahead on a key provision of its war effort. Twitter: @Travis_Tritten​

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