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American Forces Press Service

Hagel Notes Progress Against ISIL as World Grows More Dangerous

By Nick Simeone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2014 – The U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is showing good signs of progress, and the first of 1,500 additional U.S. troops that President Barack Obama ordered to Iraq should begin arriving there in the next few weeks, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a PBS interview broadcast last night.

"Overall, we are seeing good progress," Hagel told Charlie Rose in a wide-ranging interview conducted at the Pentagon yesterday in describing the three months of airstrikes and Iraqi and Kurdish attacks against ISIL. "We're not where we need to be yet, but this is a longer-term, difficult, challenging mission."

Since June, ISIL has overrun cities and towns across a swath of territory spanning the Iraqi-Syrian border, and a coalition of nations is working to degrade, and ultimately destroy, the terrorist group.

"We've never seen an organization like ISIL that is so well organized, so well trained, so well-funded, so strategic, so brutal, so completely ruthless," Hagel said.

No Ground Combat Role for U.S. Forces

The defense secretary said Obama's decision earlier this month to double the number of U.S. troops in Iraq means additional trainers and advisors will begin arriving over the next few weeks. And while he said administration and military leaders are always reassessing the effectiveness of their strategy, he emphasized that despite the troop increase, American forces will not be returning to Iraq in a ground combat role.

"There will be and there is combat there in Syria and Iraq -- boots on the ground in Iraq," he said. "But they're not Americans fighting that war. We're training, we're advising, we're equipping."

Hagel was also asked about Russia's intervention in Ukraine and what the United States and NATO are doing to counter Russian threats to the region, including whether Washington would expand U.S. military assistance to the Ukrainian government beyond nonlethal equipment and training.

"We're reviewing every request right now on everything," Hagel said, but he added that the conflict between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed rebels in the east ultimately must be resolved through diplomatic means.

A Dangerous World

Overall, Hagel described a world growing increasingly dangerous and full of what he called "uncontrollables." Coming up with policies that are relevant and effective is difficult under those conditions, he said, and becomes more difficult as additional sequestration spending cuts threaten the Pentagon budget.

If current trends continue, he said, "we will cut so deeply into readiness and to our ability to carry out our missions, and it will have a direct impact on every facet of our security."

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