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Mullen: Split Between Obama, Generals 'Blown Way Out of Proportion'

Former top military adviser says debate about ground troops is a "natural part of the discussion."

Retired Navy Admiral Mike Mullen said on Sunday that reports of broad disagreement between President Barack Obama and top military brass have been "blown way out of proportion."

Mullen told NBC's Chuck Todd that debate about whether U.S. ground troops will be necessary to complete the mission against ISIS is a "natural part of the discussion" but that the decision ultimately rests with the commander in chief. "There should not be any question in the end who decides this, and that's the president," he said on Meet the Press.

Last week, Obama's top military adviser and Mullen's successor, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Martin Dempsey, told Congress that he could consider advising the president in the future that the United States send troops into the conflict. That remark was widely interpreted as a sign of broad disagreement between the military and Obama, who has publicly ruled out putting U.S. boots on the ground.

But Mullen, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs from 2007 to 2011, said that notion is overblown. "I think what General Dempsey was trying to do was certainly to explain to some degree how the process works," he said. "I think it's been blown way out of proportion in terms of the disagreement between the military and the president."


— Carrie Dann