Jan. 21, 2016 —
BRUSSELS (January 21, 2016) — The effort to isolate the Syrian city of Raqqa in the fight
against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is producing some success, the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
Isolating Raqqa, ISIL's stronghold
and administrative capital, entails finding moderate Syrian opposition forces,
supporting them with ammunition, and having them take action on the ground to
cut access, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. told reporters here
yesterday ahead of today’s NATO military chiefs of staff meeting.
"We are comfortable that the
relationship that we have right now with moderate Syrian opposition forces is
allowing us to move the campaign forward in the way that we envisioned,"
The fight in Syria is intertwined
with the fight in Iraq, the general noted. He added that the efforts for Raqqa
are complemented by the success of the Kurdish peshmerga operation around the
northern Iraqi city of Sinjar.
The fight against ISIL, he said,
involves cutting the lines of communication and hindering freedom of movement
between Raqqa and the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the largest city captured
by the terrorists.
'Decisive Operations' for Mosul
The efforts are putting pressure
"360-degrees" on ISIL in Iraq and Syria, the chairman commented. He
highlighted positive developments, including the peshmerga consolidating large
swaths of northern Iraq.
"We're in the process of
planning with the Iraqis the next phase of Mosul," Dunford said. "In
some point in the future, we'll conduct more decisive operations to isolate Mosul."
Success in Mosul depends on the
local population rejecting the terrorists and their brutality, Dunford said,
noting that ISIL gained support of the populace through "fear and
U.S. Objectives Not Changed By
Russian involvement in Syria has not
changed the U.S. objectives, the chairman said.He said he is satisfied that the
flight safety mechanisms put in place in October have allowed the campaign to
continue as planned.
"On balance, when you look at
the last three months, we've been continuing to prosecute the campaign in a
manner that we've envisioned and been able to address the safety-of-flight
issues," he said.
The chairman said he has talked with
his Russian counterpart twice on a wide range of issues. That dialogue is important,
he said, because it will help "mitigate the risk of miscalculation."
should be "enduring, even during challenging periods," Dunford said.
"I think that we have experience of that throughout the Cold War, and I
think it was useful then, and I think it to be useful now," he added.
The United States and Russia have
different goals in Syria, he pointed out.
"Not sharing those objectives
prevents us from doing what we would call coordination," he said. "We
are able to, with the dialogue that we have, address safety issues, and we have
a formal mechanism in place."
Russian Efforts Aid Syrian Regime
Russia's involvement in Syria has
"stabilized" the situation for the regime of President Bashar Assad,
Dunford said. The regime has regained a small amount of ground in that time, he
"My assessment is that the
Russians have been helpful to the regime in consolidating their control over
the area that is [an] arc in the western part of the country," he said.
The chairman added, "I think the regime was
in a worse place back in September, and I think as a result of the support the
Russians have provided, the regime is in a better place today."