The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing Sept. 16 about the U.S. policy to combat the Islamic State featuring testimony from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey. Here is Dempsey’s statement.
Thank you Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Inhofe, members of this committee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you this morning.
Secretary Hagel has described in detail the elements of our strategy against ISIL. The role the US is taking is – in my judgment – appropriate.
This is an Iraq-first strategy … but not an Iraq-only one. Job one is empowering the Iraqi ground forces to go on the offensive, which they’re already demonstrating. This rests upon a partnership with a credible Iraqi government, which is showing positive signs of being inclusive of all its population.
At this juncture, our advisors are intended to help the Iraqis develop a mindset for the offensive and the actions to match it. Our military advisors will help the Iraqis conduct campaign planning, arrange for enabler and logistics support, and coordinate Coalition contributions. To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisors should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the President.
As long as ISIL enjoys a haven in Syria, it will remain a formidable force and threat. So while this work in Iraq is taking place, we will simultaneously pressure ISIL in Syria.
With Coalition partners and contributions, we will begin building a force of vetted, trained moderate Syrians to take on ISIL in Syria. We will work to ensure they have a Syrian chain of command and report to a moderate Syrian political authority. This force will work initially at the local and community level, and help pull together Syrians who have most felt the harsh hand of ISIL.
In conjunction with that long term effort, we will be prepared to strike ISIL targets in Syria that degrade ISIL's capabilities. This will not look like "shock and awe" because that is not how ISIL is organized, but it will be persistent and sustainable.
I want to emphasize that our military actions will be part of a whole of government effort that works to disrupt ISIL financing, interdict the movement of foreign fighters across borders, and undermine the ISIL message.
Within a coalition of capable, willing regional and international partners, I believe we can destroy ISIL in Iraq, restore the Iraqi-Syrian border, and disrupt ISIL in Syria.
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.
This will require a sustained effort over an extended period of time. It is a generational problem. And we should expect that our enemies will adapt their tactics as we adjust our approach.
As the situation in the Middle East evolves and continues to demand our attention, we’re also balancing other challenges in other regions—Ebola being the most recent … along with reassuring our European allies against Russian aggression … and continuing our mission in Afghanistan.
At the same time, we face the reality of fiscal constraint and budget uncertainty. We must maintain the balance between our capability, capacity, and readiness. All three elements – together – underwrite the military options we can provide, now and in the future.