By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2014 – The most important aspect of the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is an inclusive and responsive Iraqi government, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told U.S. service members during his visit to Baghdad today.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey also said the anti-ISIL campaign could take several years to accomplish.
In an unannounced trip to Iraq, the general today visited with U.S. troops in Baghdad and Irbil and spoke to Iraqi and Kurdish leaders facing off against ISIL.
During a town hall-type meeting at Baghdad International Airport, Dempsey assured troops that the current mission in Iraq is a different one than Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“This time we want to have a partner in the government of Iraq that actually takes ownership of the security threats that face their nation,” he said. “We want to enable them, so that as this thing evolves … ISIL is rejected by the Iraqi population.”
Assisting Iraqis to Provide Their Own Security
American troops now in Iraq are advising Iraqi forces, a mission that Dempsey said supports the fundamental goal of Iraq taking responsibility for its own security.
“What we are asking you to do is work, by, with and through the Iraqis to get the job done,” the chairman said.
Dempsey said ISIL is an insurgency targeting the government of Iraq. It also is a terrorist organization, he said, because of its radical ideology, its brutality, and its stated exclusiveness and its anti-Western, anti-modern ideology.
“That’s why it’s a threat not only to the region, but to us,” the chairman said.
Defeating ISIL will mean the terrorist group “no longer has the ability to impose its will on Iraq or export terror outside the boundaries of Iraq,” Dempsey said.
The battle against ISIL will take place on several fronts, the general said.
“We’ve got to, at some level, militarily defeat it,” he said. “That is to take away its ability to maneuver, take away its ability to plan, take away its ability to resupply itself.”
Iraqis and the coalition also have a counter-financing operation underway that’s designed to remove ISIL’s ability to generate funds, Dempsey said. Also, coalition aircraft are striking the terrorist group’s small oil refineries and depots, while coalition nations are disrupting ISIL’s funding streams.
Countering ISIL’S Message
There’s also a counter-messaging aspect to the anti-ISIL operation, the chairman said.
“That means we need to strip away this mythology that somehow that this group is the ultimate coming of the Sunni caliphate,” Dempsey said. This must be done by people and groups in the region, he said.
The most important part of defeating ISIL is “the Sunni population is going to have to reject it,” the chairman said. “And the Sunni population will only reject it if they feel the government in Baghdad is actually contributing toward a government of national unity where everyone has an equal chance to compete for commerce, for freedom and so on.
“If we keep all those lines of operation pacing each other,” Dempsey continued, “then I think we will set the conditions where we will be able to draw down.”
Dempsey said he doesn’t currently foresee a situation where U.S. troops would be employed in direct-combat missions against ISIL.
“I don’t think we need to do that,” he said.