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News | Dec. 8, 2015

Dunford: U.S. asking nations for specific capabilities to fight ISIL

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN, (Dec. 7, 2015) — If any country, in the wake of the attacks in Paris, doesn’t think the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is a problem, “then they are not thinking hard enough,” Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr.said today.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed the campaign against ISIL and efforts to enhance the coalition dedicated to defeating the terror group during an interview with reporters at the Naval Support Activity here.

The chairman would like to see more Sunni forces dedicated to the effort against ISIL. “My assessment is that the Sunni Arab forces from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf would be helpful in Iraq and Syria,” he said. And the leaders of those nations know of this assessment and are studying proposals, Dunford added.

“The Saudis, the [United Arab Emirates] and Bahrain are all in Yemen and dealing with violent extremism there,” he said. “But we’d like to see some more help particularly in Syria.”

Dunford has also sent letters to various countries around the world that have specific capabilities needed to contribute to the fight. “That initiative is very much alive in terms of the secretary of defense’s outreach, my outreach,” he said. “That’s a big thing that we are doing as we engage with our counterparts. We know what capabilities they have, [and] we know what capabilities we can use in the campaign. So we’ve targeted those countries, and we are asking them for support.”

There have been some initial responses that are encouraging, but, he added, he won’t say more until those capabilities are on the ground and contributing.

Increasing Coalition Contributions

More capabilities -- from the French, Italians, Germans and British -- are flowing to the battle in Iraq and Syria. “We have a number of countries we are working with right now to provide additional special operations forces in Syria and Iraq,” Dunford said. “There are more than 60 nations in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIL, and a number of those nations -- particularly in the wake of Paris -- have indicated that their contributions would increase.”

This kind of collective effort is needed to build pressure against the terror group. “The pressure we are putting on violent extremists around the world is necessary. Otherwise they will grow, and their external operations capability will grow and will be a greater threat to the American people and our interests and our allies,” he said.

Dunford stressed that this will not mean large formations of western forces. The anti-ISIL campaign plan is based on getting indigenous ground forces from the region to retake territory lost in Syria and Iraq. In Syria, this means small numbers of special operations forces working with credible Sunni Arab forces.

In Iraq, the coalition is supporting and training Iraqi security forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and Sunni tribes. The coalition is providing some logistical support, equipment, advice and combined arms support particularly aviation support and surface fires, the chairman said.

Dunford emphasized that everything the United States is doing in Iraq is being done in consultation with Iraq’s government.