Friday, November 14, 2014

Pentagon Officials Say Islamic State Fight May Need U.S. Combat Forces

"Mainstream media" salivates at prospect of reporting more American military deaths in Iraq and Syria - this means a free pass for shilling and cheerleading the failed illegal "war on terror" and diminished chances of facing war crimes trials  

By Felicia Schwartz


Top Pentagon officials said on Thursday that the U.S. military strategy in Iraq and Syria remains an “Iraq-first” approach aimed at stabilizing that country and doesn’t include plans for American combat troops, but that conditions on the ground could change U.S. calculations.

Obama determined to decimate U.S. military
In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, outlined scenarios that could prompt a review of the U.S. strategy against the militant group Islamic State.

As Iraqi security forces prepare to go on the offensive and mount an effort to retake control of the country’s second-largest city of Mosul from Islamic State and to re-establish the border between Iraq and Syria, Gen. Dempsey said, these more complicated efforts could require ground assistance from U.S. forces.

“I’m not predicting at this point that I would recommend that those forces in Mosul and along the border would need to be accompanied by U.S. forces but we’re certainly considering it,” Gen. Dempsey said. He said Iraqi troops are doing a better job of fighting in recent months.

What doesn't Obama understand about THIS?
The U.S. strategy in Iraq depends on assumptions about the Iraqi government and its security forces, he said. American officials are assuming the Iraqi government will govern inclusively and convince the country’s Sunnis and Kurds it is committed to doing so, Gen. Dempsey said. The U.S. also is assuming that Iraqi security forces will be willing and able to retake control of Anbar province from Islamic State extremists, he said. If Iraqis fall short of these expectations, it could force the U.S. to reconsider its plans on the ground, he said.

Gen. Dempsey said he didn’t foresee circumstances where it would be ideal for the U.S. to “take this fight on ourselves,” and expand beyond its modest footprint. The U.S. has 1,400 troops in Iraq and plans to send up to an additional 1,500.

Cowards, TRAITORS Hagel and Dempsey

The White House has vowed to leave U.S. combat troops out of an international campaign of airstrikes and support for local ground forces as it carries out an effort to counter the spread of Islamic State. However, military officials have repeatedly said some conditions could require a greater U.S. ground role.

Gen. Dempsey said there was no gap between the military and the White House on the strategy, and that President Barack Obama has accepted the military’s recommendations.

Mr. Hagel described some successes in the campaign, including advances by Iraqi forces near Iraq’s Beiji oil refinery and Iraq’s retaking the northern town of Zumar. 

He also pointed to airstrikes targeting Islamic State leaders over the weekend.

These strikes targeted battlefield leaders rather than senior leadership. Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, may have been injured in an airstrike over the weekend that U.S. officials believe was conducted Iraqi forces.

On Thursday, Islamic State released an audio recording of Mr. Baghdadi, calling on supporters to launch “volcanoes of jihad everywhere,” according to SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks and verifies online jihadist activity. It wasn’t clear when the recording was made.

Rep. Buck McKeon (R., Calif.), the committee’s chairman, said Mr. Obama’s plans for additional troops and a request for new funds didn’t appear to reflect any strategy change, even as targeting and airstrikes become more challenging as extremists alter their tactics to avoid them.

On a related issue, Mr. McKeon said he wouldn’t support an impending administration request for an updated military-force authorization to conduct operations against Islamic State. Mr. McKeon opposes the administration’s plans because they wouldn’t provide authority for U.S. troops to serve in a ground combat role.

Last week, Mr. Obama announced plans for up to 1,500 additional U.S. troops to train, advise and assist Iraqi forces and asked for an additional $5.6 billion in funding to support U.S. operations against Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

In both Iraq and Syria, Mr. Hagel said the U.S. needed to train and equip ground forces to go on the offensive and win back territory from Islamic State, cautioning that this program in Syria would be a longer-term effort.

In Iraq, the training operation will include the expanded effort announced last week to advise and assist Iraqi forces, and the development of sites around Iraq to train 12 Iraqi brigades.

Gen. Dempsey said the U.S. is looking to train 80,000 competent Iraqi security forces troops to go on the offensive against Islamic State and retake Mosul.

“As Iraqi forces build strength, the tempo and intensity of our coalition’s air campaign will accelerate in tandem,” Mr. Hagel said.

Mr. Hagel said more than a dozen allied nations have expressed interest in sending trainers and advisers to help with the effort. He didn’t name them. Last week, the Pentagon said it expects partner nations will contribute 700 trainers, in addition to about 870 from the U.S.

The U.S. also will support Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ’s initiative to develop provincially based National Guard units. Mr. Hagel applauded Mr. Abadi’s decision to dismiss Iraqi military officers accused of corruption.

Addressing Syria, Mr. Hagel said that without a partner government or regular military forces on the ground similar to those in Iraq, U.S. strikes there are limited to isolating and destroying Islamic State havens.

In the long-term, the Pentagon will train moderate opposition forces, which Mr. Hagel said would take eight to 12 months to begin making a difference on the ground. The U.S. is considering options to support those forces once they are trained and equipped.

The U.S. continues to believe Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has lost legitimacy, but doesn’t see a “purely military solution” in Syria, meaning there are no U.S. plans to target the regime or its forces.

Since September, 16 nations have joined the military campaign against Islamic State, Mr. Hagel said, and 12 coalition partners have carried out more than 130 airstrikes. Since Aug. 8, the U.S. and coalition warplanes have carried out more than 850 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

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