BERLIN (September 9, 2015) — The future of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is "increasingly dim" as more nations join the anti-ISIL effort, according to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Although right now the fight against ISIL is "tactically stalemated," with no "dramatic gains on either side," Iraq will move at the "speed of its governance, not at the speed of its military capability," Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said.
Dempsey spoke to reporters here today on the start of his final foreign tour as the top U.S. military officer. He met with U.S. Embassy officials and has talks with German officials on Thursday.
Dempsey applauded Germany for taking the lead in helping thousands of refugees who are streaming over its borders fleeing the violence in Syria. But the causes of the mass migration must be resolved, he said.
The refugee crisis has "galvanized Europe," Dempsey said. "There's an awakening of sorts that this refugee crisis has roots and those roots have to be addressed."
ISIL Fight Require Long-Term, Transregional Approach
The general said ISIL could be defeated on the battlefield by an introduction of NATO forces or US forces. But unless the root causes of its ideology are addressed, the problem of extremism will resurface.
"This is one where we have to ensure that we've achieved both tactical success and strategic success," he said.
The effort is long-term and requires a dedicated, transregional approach and at a sustainable level of effort, he said.
"We've been effective in slowing and in fact in preventing them regaining any momentum," he said.
NATO Talks on ISIL
The chairman travels later in the week to Istanbul, where he meets with fellow chiefs of defense at a NATO meeting, before making his way to Estonia. He said he plans to press his counterparts on addressing state threats like those from an "assertive Russia," and the non-state threats such as ISIL.
There has been a "rising sense of urgency about ensuring that we were collaborating to the degree necessary" on those two "distinct problems," he said.
A 'Decade or More' to Resolve ISIL Problem
A lasting solution against ISIL, Dempsey said, includes good governance, inclusiveness, education, and the creation of jobs
"ISIL is today's manifestation of a much deeper and broader and longer-term issue, which is pervasive instability, disenfranchised groups, ethnic conflict, [and] religious conflict in the Middle East and North Africa that will take a decade or more to resolve."
The underlying issues that allowed ISIL to be created are "not going to be resolved in the near term," Dempsey said.
"We have to look at it over time and achieve a sustainable level of effort that the military instrument can be used and integrated into other lines of effort that relate to diplomacy, economics and information."
Turkish Cooperation in the Fight
Turkey recently began participating in the air campaign against ISIL. "I don't at all worry that Turkey hasn’t been a good, solid ally of the United States and NATO," Dempsey said, pointing to that country's involvement in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
"We may have run through a bit of a rough patch there, but I think we're through it and now we're working on the problem," Dempsey said.
With Turkey recently going after the militant Kurdish nationalist group known as the PKK, it may have been "unhelpful" diplomatically, but "militarily it didn’t distract from what we were trying to accomplish with them against ISIL in northern Syria - and they certainly have the resources to be able to confront both threats."
Over the last six months, the Turks' understanding of the ISIL threat has "probably moved a bit closer to ours and as a result of that, they've give us some accesses and entered into some of the strike operations," he said, adding the sides are now in military-to-military discussions with Turkey about the "next steps."
Governance is the Problem in Iraq
The withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Ramadi earlier this year was due to poor leadership, Dempsey said. The forces, he said, didn’t have confidence the central government would provide them with the logistics support they needed.
"Ramadi was no doubt a setback, at least to the confidence and morale of the Iraqi security forces," he said. "It's recoverable because the leaders have been replaced and some of the shortcomings have been identified and we're working with them to address them."
The popular mobilization forces, or PMF, left some holes in the battlefield that ISIL filled.
"It's mostly an issue of governance right now in Iraq," he said.
The Iraqi security forces are on their way to being a "credible force for the central government," while the PMF is trying to figure out what it is going to be, with some elements that have "responded to Iran's call."
There is "internal debate, discussion and dissent about who's going to be the prominent force in Iraq," Dempsey said, adding "That's a very important debate and how that debate turns out will probably determine the future of Iraq."