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American Forces Press Service

Dempsey 'Encouraged, but Pragmatic' About Iraq

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2014 – Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey is "encouraged, but pragmatic" about progress in Iraq to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attended the Defense One Summit here today. He spoke about his recent trip to Iraq, where he met with U.S. service members and Iraqi and Kurdish leaders.

"The new [Iraqi] leaders inherited deep structural disarray," the chairman said. "They are going to need a combination of courage, luck and leadership to manage their way through this."

It will also take time, he said. The new Iraqi government has dismissed a number of military leaders and seeks to appoint more competent leaders from all sectors of Iraq to replace them.

Iraqis Gain Some Tactical Success

Iraq's security force is having some tactical success in pushing ISIL away from Baghdad, Dempsey said.

"Over the next few months, with the help of our advisors and the training effort we have started as well as the military campaign from the air, I think there will be progress on the ground," the chairman said. "They are doing much better, but they have some deep structural vulnerability that must be fixed."

Looking back on his career, the general said this is his third time in Iraq. He was a battalion commander in the first Gulf War, a division commander and the commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and now he's facing the problems with ISIL.

It's the Iraqi's Campaign

"This one is different," Dempsey said. "Instead of grabbing ahold of it and owning it, and gradually transitioning back, we're telling [the Iraqis] from the start that this is about you. This has to be your campaign."

The chairman gave as an example an incident he saw when he visited Iraq last weekend. Iraqi forces, he said, called U.S. officials with a request for an airdrop on Mount Sinjar. The Americans pointed out that the Iraqis have airlifters -- C-130Js -- and had the needed supplies.

"Turned out all they needed was the expertise to rig the parachute extraction system that would do the airdrop," he said. "That's the right answer. They do what they can do and we fill the gaps they have in capabilities."

Meanwhile, the chairman said, the United States has a strategy to go after ISIL.

"I've got a 10-page document from the National Security Council," Dempsey said. "I've got a 503-page document from U.S. Central Command. I've got 190 planners down there in Tampa from 30 nations. We have a strategy."

However, that strategy is "going to change" and it "will change often," he said.

The objective -- to defeat ISIL -- will not change, Dempsey said.

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