WASHINGTON - The top US military officer said that he could envision situations in which American troops could provide an edge in the fight against Islamic State.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on ABC’s “This Week” that it is difficult for US warplanes to identify targets to attack the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Having ground troops to better identify places to attack could be a benefit, he said, but stopped short of recommending it.

“There will be circumstances when the answer to that question will likely be ‘yes,’ ” he said when asked about a US ground presence. “But I haven’t encountered one right now.” The US is currently providing air support and training to local ground forces in the effort to contain and combat ISIS. But recent reports have suggested that the group is making gains in the region. Dempsey suggested ISIS may be adapting to minimize the impact of US air support.

“An enemy adapts and they’ll be harder to target,” he said. “They know how to maneuver and how to use populations and concealment.”But Dempsey also highlighted what he called some gains made in the effort against ISIS, noting that former threatened areas like the US embassy in Baghdad are again safe. Dempsey has previously said ground troops could assist the effort, but his take differs from one offered Sunday by National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rice strictly ruled out any US ground presence in the region, and argued that the circumstances do not require and would not benefit from US soldiers on the ground. Dempsey warned that ISIS is imposing strict punishments on the population in regions it controls, while also working to win support among the populace.

“Extraordinarily strict interpretations of Sharia Law, punishments — you know, crucifixions and beheadings of a nature that the world hasn’t seen in hundreds of years,” he said. “But [ISIS] is also clever to give the enemy its due. They are also providing basic goods and services. They seek to reach out to children to influence the next generation.”