(NEWSER) – President Barack Obama's reason for not sending ground troops to the Middle East to fight ISIS: The White House figures it would mean 100 US troop deaths per month, 500 wounded, and a monthly tab of $10 billion, all to fight a group that doesn't pose an "existential threat" to the US, per what the president told news columnists in a private session Tuesday, the New York Times reports.

The meeting was off the record, but some attendees started speaking anonymously to the Times after writer David Ignatius posted a column Wednesday in the Washington Post that revealed much of Obama's thought process without attributing it to that meeting, notes the Times. That piece, in which Ignatius calls Obama a "tortoise" and the GOP "harebrained," spells out the president's determination to stick to his "small-footprint" approach of fighting ISIS: a slow, steady strategyof airstrikes and local military training that's been denounced by critics as weak.

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