Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a Senate panel Wednesday that the U.S. is ready to assist the Iraqi army with more personnel and equipment in the effort to fight ISIS militants.
"We won't hesitate to confront ISIS," Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The U.S. would provide attack helicopters and additional military advisers in the fight to retake Ramadi, a key city in western Iraq. Iraqi forces advanced on Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar province, earlier this week, capturing a military operations center and a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city.
ISIS fighters captured Ramadi in May in a major setback for Iraqi troops.
Tough fighting remains ahead and if requested by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the U.S. will provide the helicopters and advisers to help "finish the job." Last week, Carter told lawmakers that the U.S. military will deploy a specialized expeditionary targeting force to Iraq to launch unilateral raids and "put even more pressure" on ISIS.
However, Carter reiterated the Obama administration's position that dramatically increasing the number of ground troops in Syria and Iraq is not the best option. The effort would be a significant undertaking that the U.S. would largely have to head up, Carter said.
That would "Americanize the conflicts in Iraq and Syria" and fight on the enemy's terms, Carter said.
"While we certainly have the capability to furnish a U.S. component to such a ground force, we have not recommended this course of action for several reasons," Carter said.
Carter said forces fighting ISIS are "building momentum". He added that Turkey and Saudi Arabia must do more to aid in the fight.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, questioned the effectiveness of U.S. efforts and repeated his calls to deploy more U.S. troops to fight ISIS.
"We are not winning this war, and time is not on our side," McCain said.