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Dempsey Discusses Anti-ISIL Strategy at Senate Hearing

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2014 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff describes the strategy against ISIL as “an Iraq-first strategy, but not an Iraq-only one.”

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, right, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testify on U.S. policy regarding the threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as ISIL, before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C., Sept. 16, 2014. DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Hinton

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning that the U.S. military’s role against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is appropriate and that the first job is to empower Iraqi ground forces to go on the offensive.

The strategy is only possible, the chairman said, because the Iraqis put together a credible government that is showing signs of being inclusive of all its citizens.

“Our military advisors will help the Iraqis conduct campaign planning, arrange for enabler and logistics support and coordinate coalition activities,” Dempsey told the senators. “If we reach the point where I believe our advisors should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I’ll recommend that to the president.”

ISIL haven in Syria

ISIL has a haven in Syria, and the strategy only works if pressure is applied to the terror group in Syria, Dempsey said.

“With coalition partners and contributions, we will begin building a force of vetted, trained, moderate Syrians to take on ISIL in Syria,” the general said. “We will work to ensure they have a Syrian chain of command and report to a moderate political authority.”

This is a long-term effort. In the short-term, Dempsey said, “we will be prepared to strike ISIL targets in Syria that degrade ISIL’s capabilities. This won’t look like a ‘shock and awe’ campaign because that is simply not how ISIL is organized, but it will be a persistent and a sustainable campaign.”

Whole-of-government approach

The chairman stressed that any military effort against the terror group must be part of a whole-of-government effort. Other U.S. agencies and those of international and regional partners will work to disrupt ISIL financing, interdict the movement of foreign fighters across borders and undermine the ISIL message.

“Given a coalition of capable, willing regional and international partners, I believe we can destroy ISIL in Iraq, restore the Iraq-Syria border and disrupt ISIL in Syria,” Dempsey said. “ISIL will ultimately be defeated when their cloak of religious legitimacy is stripped away and the populations on which they have imposed themselves reject them. Our actions are intended to move in that direction.”

Confronting ISIL’s type of extremism requires a sustained effort over an extended period of time, the general said.

“It’s a generational problem, and we should expect that our enemies will adapt their tactics as we adjust our approach,” he said.

But ISIL is not the U.S. military’s only concern, Dempsey said. The U.S. military, he said, is also dealing with other matters in the Middle East, the on-going rebalance to the Pacific, countering Ebola, reassuring European allies in light of Russian aggression, and continuing the mission in Afghanistan.

“But our young men and women in uniform are doing so much more,” Dempsey said. “They conduct hundreds of exercises, activities and engagements every day. Actions that deter conflict and reassure allies around the world -- and they are performing magnificently.”

Uncomfortable with resources

The general said he’s growing increasingly uncomfortable that the “will to provide means does not match the will to pursue ends.” DoD officials are doing what they can to bridge that gap, but will need Congressional help, he said.

“If we do not depart from our present path, over time I will have fewer military options to offer to the secretary and the president and that is not a position in which I want to find myself,” Dempsey said.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)

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Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

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