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American Forces Press Service

Dempsey Makes Case for Long-Term Effort to Defeat ISIL

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

COPENHAGEN, August 17, 2015 — The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is just the most recent manifestation of an underlying set of instabilities, inequities and ideologies that will be around for at least 20 years, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today at the Danish Army Academy here.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey spoke to cadets and staff following meetings with Danish Chief of Defense Army Gen. Peter Bartram.

The issues that created ISIL and earlier groups such as al-Qaida in Iraq are both internal and external to Islam and fanned by “extraordinarily bad governance and disenfranchisement,” Dempsey said.

He added, “Even if ISIL goes away, those underlying issues are going to provide the catalyst and the environment in which some other group takes their place -- until that stability is returned to that part of the world and Islam confronts its internal contradictions.”

The U.S. and coalition effort to counter ISIL aims at ensuring the terror group remains defeated, the general said. The group at first relied on local dissatisfaction to coalesce, and then took advantage of ungoverned areas in Syria and Iraq to grow further. Corruption, cronyism, bad governance and “the enduring internal disagreement between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam -- those have to be addressed and then ISIL can be defeated,” the chairman said.

This is why a whole-of-government approach is best, he said. The military provides lines of effort against the group, but there must also be law enforcement, governance, diplomatic and economic lines of effort. “ISIL has to be defeated militarily and then the internal issues have to be addressed by responsible governance or they will just come back under some other name,” he said.

Dempsey said the military instrument is doing well against the group in that they are interdicting supplies and disrupting ISIL command and control. The effort is enabling Iraqi security forces and some partners in Syria to inflict military damage on ISIL, he said.

“To be successful, a group with such a radical ideology to recruit, for example, has to maintain momentum,” Dempsey said. “Simply blunting their momentum gives us the advantage. Our real advantage is that we’ve got a 22-nation coalition. So ISIL’s strategic aspects are quite dim, but tactically day-to-day they have had some success.”

Dempsey believes this is a generational fight, first because the ideology has affected a generation of young Arabs. “It’s going to take a long time to convince those young Arabs that they don’t have to follow such a radical ideology to have a life” he said.

The second reason, the chairman added, is internal to the U.S. government, NATO and the coalition.

“If we continue to think of this as a near-term conflict and a near-term threat, we’re going to fight this thing for 15 years, but we will fight 15 one-year fights,” he said. “We need to grip the fact that this threat will be around for 15 or 20 years and we need to organize ourselves on a sustainable footing.”

Key is letting Iraqis and Syrians own the fight, Dempsey said. The chairman likened the coalition effort to putting a scaffold around a house. “That scaffolding will allow us to support the structure in places it needs to be supported, but must be adaptable to change,” he said.

In Iraq, the coalition has training centers and operations centers in Taqqadam, Anbar, Erbil and Baghdad. Going forward, those resources may have to move elsewhere to go where the Iraqis have the need, Dempsey said.

“I think over time we will compress ISIL from the north through the Kurds, from west through Syrian opposition and from the east through Iraqi security forces and eventually squeeze it out of existence,” the chairman said.

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