Dempsey Describes ISIL Strategy, “Uncertain” Global Security

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the strategy to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, July 7, 2015

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Washington, DC – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told lawmakers today that embedding joint tactical air controllers with Iraqi forces would not be the silver bullet in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

“The silver bullet is getting the Iraqis to fight,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said.

In joint testimony with Defense Secretary Ash Carter before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Dempsey described the global security picture as “uncertain as I’ve ever seen it.”

ISIL is one of many concerns that US national security leaders must evaluate and counter, he said. He cited Russia’s challenges in Ukraine, China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile technologies, growing threats from nonstate actors and “a rapidly leveling playing field in cyber and in space,” as some of the threats to America.

“The world is rapidly changing everywhere, and we are seeing significant shifts in an already complex strategic landscape,” the chairman said. “While our potential adversaries grow stronger, many of our allies are becoming increasingly dependent on the United States and our assistance, and some of our comparative military advantages have begun to erode.”

Three Trends in Middle East

The Middle East is the victim of three trends manifesting themselves simultaneously, Dempsey said.

The first trend is that several governments are struggling for political legitimacy, he said, because they are not sufficiently pluralistic or they are not sufficiently accountable to their citizens.

The second, he said, is that the centuries-old Sunni-Shia schism continues with new weapons, new means of gaining adherents and new ways to subvert opponents.

“Third, we’re see rising competition between moderate and radical elements of Islam, and ISIL and others are taking advantage of that competition,” Dempsey said.

The chairman said he believes the US military role in the region “is appropriately matched to the complexity of the environment, and is a level of effort that is sustainable over time.”

Whole-of-Government Approach

Dempsey repeated his contention that military power alone will not win the war against extremists like ISIL. The United States is using a whole-of-government approach to the problem of extremism, he said, an approach that includes economic, law enforcement and diplomatic efforts in addition to military force.

“This campaign focuses on actively reinforcing and hardening our partners in the region who must, and in most cases are, taking responsibility for their own security,” Dempsey said. “And that’s an important point. Enduring stability cannot be imposed in the Middle East from the outside in. The fight is enabled by the coalition, but it must be owned by those regional stakeholders.”

The chairman said the effort marks the beginning of a complex, nonlinear campaign that will require a sustained effort over an extended period of time. The United States must be as agile and as quick as the network of terrorists it faces, he added.

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