WASHINGTON, June 25, 2015 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed the threats facing the United States and its allies during his fifth Facebook town hall meeting Wednesday.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey received many questions about the U.S. strategy to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
He wrote that the United States is serious about confronting the ISIL threat, and that the strategy is about working through a network of partners in the region.
“As I’ve said before, western military forces will not be the decisive factor in defeating ISIL within Arab countries,” Dempsey said. “We can and will help our partners, but lasting success will only come when the Sunni populations of the region reject ISIL’s corrupt, extremist and brutal ideology.”
The chairman said he’s spent much of the last 25 years in the Middle East, beginning with service in Operation Desert Storm, continuing through duty in Saudi Arabia, command of the 1st Armored Division in Iraq, command of the Multinational Security Transition Command - Iraq and culminating as the acting commander of U.S. Central Command.
“My experience leads me to believe that it will take at least a generation to overcome the many challenges there,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, and many in the region suffer as a result of the internal conflict between moderate and radical Muslims.”
Arab partners must “own the fight,” the chairman said.
The chairman also responded to a question about whether the U.S. military has a contingency plan in case Iraq breaks up.
“In the military, we don’t embark on a weekend picnic without a plan and a backup plan,” Dempsey wrote.
“Our current plan contributes to an outcome in which Iraq will be able to achieve a government that represents all sects of the Iraqi people,” he added.
The central government in Iraq must act in the best interests of all Iraqis and not just one portion, the chairman said.
If this does not occur, he said, “then we will adapt, with the cooperation of our coalition and network of ground partners, to protect our security interests.”
Dempsey added, “For now, we remain clear-eyed about the nature of the threat and continue to impose heavy costs on ISIL.”
Questioners were also concerned about a resurgent Russia. Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and continued support for separatists in eastern Ukraine has raised concern globally.
“Make no mistake,” Dempsey wrote. “We will not give up even an inch of NATO soil.”
The U.S. commitments under NATO Article 5 -- an attack on one member is an attack on all -- are firm, Dempsey said.
NATO’s 28 member-nations “are in this together,” he added.
Dempsey said the United States will work with other NATO members and other allies to reassure countries on the frontline with Russia -- the Baltic Republics, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. U.S. assets, he added, will also assist in the new NATO Response Force, including the very high readiness joint task force. The JTF will be able to deploy within 48 hours of being ordered.
American service members will provide force-specific, unique capabilities, including intra-theater airlift, air-to-air refueling, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, naval support ships and strategic airlift, the chairman said.
“If a crisis exceeds the capability of the VJTF, the U.S. is prepared and has committed to provide additional military forces -- including land forces -- to NATO efforts,” Dempsey said.