(Washington, D.C.) — The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters today that airstrikes alone will not defeat the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq.
DOD Secretary Chuck Hagel said “other military components” may be necessary.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Martin Dempsey added that the Syrian moderate opposition is key to a ground campaign against IS militants.
There is “no military-only solution” to IS (also known as ISIL an ISIS), Gen. Dempsey said during a Pentagon press briefing today.
“There is no airpower-alone solution to ISIL, either in Iraq or in Syria, and so the answer is yes there has to be a ground component to the campaign against ISIL in Syria and we believe that the path to develop that is the Syrian moderate opposition,” he added.
“We’ve had estimates anywhere from 12 to 15 thousand as what we believe [the moderate opposition] would need to recapture lost territory in Eastern Syria and I am confident that we can establish their training if we do it right,” explained Gen. Dempsey. “We have to do it right not fast.”
Gen. Dempsey indicated that although he may recommend the use of ground troops to confront IS militants, those forces will not necessarily include American soldiers.
“In fact, the only truly effective force that will actually be able to reject ISIL from within its own population is a force comprised of Iraqis and Kurds and moderate Syrian opposition,” continued the general. “At some point if we have to advise them more closely than currently we are, of course I’ll recommend it, but we haven’t reached that point.”
When pressed on whether he stands by comments that he will recommend the use of U.S. ground forces against Islamic State jihadists if necessary, Gen. Dempsey said he will recommend to the president whatever it takes to “destroy ISIL.”
During the Pentagon press briefing, the defense secretary echoed Gen. Dempsey’s comments that airstrikes alone will not be effective against the Islamic State, adding that “other military components” will be necessary.
“As we continue our operations from the air, I also want to emphasize that no one is under any illusions, under any illusions, that airstrikes alone will destroy ISIL,” Hagel told reporters. “They are one element of our broader comprehensive campaign against ISIL. A campaign that has diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and other military components working with coalition partners and a new government in Iraq.”
“This week we move forward on each of these fronts,” he continued.
Hagel said that with the U.S. Treasury Department in the lead, the United States and its coalition partners are “intensifying efforts” to sever IS financing sources.