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American Forces Press Service

Recent Successes Against ISIL Encouraging, Dunford Says

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, December 1, 2015 — Recent successes on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria are encouraging, and the coalition and local partners need to build on these successes, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congress today.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. told the House Armed Services Committee today that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has been contained tactically, but not yet strategically.

The coalition and local partners must attack ISIL at its primary sources of strength, the general said: its claim to be the new caliphate, its narrative, and its personnel.

The U.S. and coalition strategy is to hit those sources in a whole-of-government approach, Dunford said, noting that the Defense Department is responsible for only two of the nine lines of effort aimed at degrading and destroying the terror group.

"To be successful, the coalition's military campaign must reduce ISIL's territorial control, undermine its 'brand' and aura of invincibility, and destroy its warfighting capability," the general said.

Military Lines of Effort

The first of the two military lines of effort against ISIL is to conduct strikes against ISIL targets, the chairman said. These strikes in Iraq and Syria are intended to kill ISIL leaders and fighters and to interdict communication, he explained. They also are hitting ISIL in the pocketbook, he noted, destroying its means of raising money.

The second critical military element is to develop and support effective partners on the ground to seize and secure ISIL-held terrain, Dunford said. While the strategy is roughly the same in Iraq and Syria, he added, there are differences. In Iraq, he said, a government is in place that the coalition can work through and with.

"Without a partner on the ground, Syria has clearly presented the most difficult challenge," the chairman said. "Success in Syria requires working with our Turkish partners to secure the northern border of Syria, enable vetted Syrian opposition forces that are willing to fight ISIL, and conducting strikes to attack core ISIL's command and control and sources of revenue."

Increasing Pressure on ISIL

In October, DoD planners looked at ways to increase pressure on ISIL by enhancing airstrikes against the group and by accelerating efforts to find and support effective partners, Dunford said. "In short, we were not satisfied that we were doing everything possible to defeat the enemy," he told the House committee.

"We're recognizing that ISIL is a transregional threat requiring a broader strategy," he said. "Our immediate response was to bear down on core ISIL across Iraq and Syria simultaneously."

The fight against ISIL is incredibly complex, the general said, but recent successes have been encouraging. "To me, those operations indicate what's possible," he added. "We also believe we are having a greater effect in our strikes against ISIL's leaders and resources."

Planners are not locked into tactics moving forward. The enemy has a vote in any campaign, Dunford said, and planners will adjust tactics as needed.

"The secretary and the president have made it clear that they expect me to deliver all of the options that will contribute to us winning the fight against ISIL," he said. "We're not satisfied or complacent about where we are, and we won't be until ISIL is defeated."

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