Anti-ISIL Campaign Will Take Time, Dempsey Says
By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2014 The campaign against the ISIL terror group will be persistent and sustained and will take time, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at a Pentagon news conference this afternoon.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said this week’s U.S. airstrikes demonstrate that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has no safe haven inside Syria.
“Our targeted actions are disrupting ISIL’s command and control, their logistics capabilities and their infrastructure in Syria,” Dempsey said. “While in Iraq, we’re empowering our Iraqi partners to go back on the offensive.”
U.S. strategy will be to continue to build, guide and sustain a credible coalition, said the chairman, who noted the participation of Arab countries in the coalition and in the airstrikes inside Syria.
The military actions, Dempsey said, are part of a larger strategy that includes a whole-of-government approach that also targets ISIL’s financing, interdicts foreign fighters, and exposes “ISIL’s false narratives.”
“In particular, stripping away their cloak of religious legitimacy behind which they hide,” the chairman said.
Reporters asked Dempsey if he wanted to dial back his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week in which he said that if conditions change in Iraq he will tell President Barack Obama that more American troops will be needed.
“If you’re asking me would I would provide my best military advice at all times, the answer is absolutely,” Dempsey said. “If you're suggesting that I might, at some point, recommend that we need a large ground force to counter ISIL, the answer to that is also absolutely.”
Ground force needed
A ground force is needed, he said, but it doesn’t have to be an American ground force. The chairman emphasized that Iraqi, Kurdish and Syrian forces are best to take on ISIL on the ground. American advisors are already working with Iraqi and Kurdish forces and the training an equipping of Syrian moderates is just beginning.
Much of what is needed to defeat ISIL depends on local forces and local governments, the chairman said.
“How long is it going to take … the new government of Iraq to convince the Sunni, Shia and Kurds that their future should rest with them [and] not with separations along sectarian lines?” Dempsey asked.
Taking on ISIL inside Syria will require a large ground component of Syrian moderates, Dempsey said. “We’ve had estimates anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 is what we believe they would need to recapture lost territory in eastern Syria,” he said. “I am confident that we can establish their training if we do it right. We have to do it right, not fast. They have to have military leaders that bind them together. They have to have a political structure into which they can hook, and therefore be responsive to. And that’s going to take some time.”
Dempsey reminded reporters that ISIL is not the only crisis. “The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest the world has ever seen,” he said. “This is a complex emergency beyond a public health crisis that has significant humanitarian, economic, political and security dimensions.”
U.S. military personnel are providing unique capabilities to establish command and control nodes, logistics hubs, training for health care personnel and engineering support in Liberia, he said.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)