TAQADDUM, Iraq —
The strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is working, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today, telling service members at this training base that he sees proof every time he visits.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford has been chairman going on 14 months, and he told the service members gathered to celebrate the Marine Corps Birthday that when he first visited in October 2015, things did not look too good. “The Iraqi forces lacked confidence, and the Iraqi nation was concerned about the future,” he said.
“Outside of Iraq, everybody was talking about ISIL like they had irreversible momentum with no way to turn them back,” he said. Alarmists saw ISIL in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Libya and Southeast Asia and believed “we didn’t have a plan,” the chairman said.
Accompanied on this trip by his senior enlisted advisor, Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the general addressed the troops in Anbar province, which he pointed out was once a stronghold of the terror group, but now has no organized ISIL resistance to Iraqi government forces. ISIL is still dangerous, the chairman said, but the strategy is working.
Taking Mosul and ISIL’s nominal capital of Raqqa, Syria, means the end of the self-proclaimed ISIL caliphate, Dunford said, and Iraqi forces are on track to make that happen.
Iraqi Military Leaders Look Ahead
Dunford told the service members that he met with Iraqi military leaders and they wanted to plan for operations over the next five years.
“Last year, we were talking about the next five days with uncertainty,” he said. “Now, they are confident enough to talk about what they will do when ISIL is defeated to make sure they have security here in Iraq that is worth the sacrifice that Marines, soldiers, airmen, sailors made over the years.”
The mission of the task force here is to support Iraqi forces operating in Anbar province and to train local Sunni tribesmen to take on ISIL and to prevent the terror group from rising again once it is defeated.
American and coalition forces are helping the Iraqis train for a long-term mission to end successive waves of violent extremism – be it al-Qaida in Iraq or ISIL or a similar group.
“With the sacrifices we have made here over the last 13 years, we have the most solemn of responsibilities at this point in the campaign, because we carry with us the memory of all those we lost, the memory of those who have been wounded and will never be the same physically or psychologically, and we have the opportunity to close the deal and make it matter,” Dunford said.
The chairman said he and Troxell “could not be more proud” of the joint force in what they have been able to accomplish in supporting Iraqi forces.
The task force is under Marine Corps command, but also contains soldiers, airmen and sailors from all over the U.S. military. The chairman said no other military can put together a team like them, and the reason the U.S. military can do it is because of the experience gained from 15 years of combat.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)