By Lisa Ferdinando
Army News Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 6, 2014 – The people of Iraq and Syria will reject and ultimately defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.
Some 20 million Sunnis between Damascus and Baghdad are disenfranchised and don't have a government they can trust or believe in, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said during a forum at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in New York.
What will defeat ISIL is the Sunni population, who will "ultimately reject this radical ideology, with us in support," the chairman said.
Dempsey said that while military operations are important, other efforts factor significantly into the fight against ISIL. Those efforts include countering terror financing, stopping the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria, and stripping away the "mythology” of ISIL and its "religious legitimacy, this aspiration to be the caliphate," he added.
A Remarkable Coalition
The general said he is impressed by the nations that have joined together in the fight against ISIL. "We built a kind of remarkable coalition, actually," he said.
It does take a "certain strategic patience" in working with the coalition partners while building enough of a credible, indigenous force that can overcome ISIL, Dempsey said, and he acknowledged that the terrorist group will occasionally have tactical success.
But, "if we are true to the principle, then over time, we believe we can defeat ISIL" through the regional actors, he added.
"It's a balancing act between the horror of watching the atrocities that this group is willing to commit and, at the same time, doing what we can to stay true to the strategy," the chairman said.
The strategy includes working with Iraq, which he described as a "credible partner," while conducting airstrikes in Syria and seeking to build a force of "moderate opposition" that will take on and ultimately defeat the terrorists.
Staying Connected With the American People
Dempsey said one reason he was in New York was to visit the City Harvest food bank as part of the Commitment to Service program, which partners the military with the National Basketball Association.
He said it is important to encourage such partnerships, in which service members and professional athletes give back to their communities.
"There's a sense of service here that we're trying to cause people to think about," he said.
The initiative teams up "athletes who are so gifted and who have gotten so much in their lives from America" with service members who also have received an "incredible amount of support from America," and for them to serve in their local communities.
"It reminds us that when you sign up for this word called 'service,' it actually means 'service,'" he said. "You serve with a servant's soul."
Ebola Mission in West Africa
Turning to Ebola crisis in West Africa, Dempsey said this is the first time an outbreak had an urban aspect.
"The fight against Ebola is a stability operation," he said. "We're trying to bring stability to a region of West Africa that is inherently unstable and to contain that disease."
The deployed service members are not providing direct care, he noted, but rather are "stabilizing the environment and giving confidence to the health care workers that if they do come down with the disease, they'll be cared for."
"We think we're making some progress in Liberia," he said. "Sierra Leone is not trending favorably, and nor is Guinea"
The chairman predicted the mission could last 18 months, broken down into three six-month troop rotations.