The draft authorization for the use of military force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is suitable for the current campaign against the terrorist group, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning.
The authorization covers American efforts to forge a coalition against ISIL and gives officials flexibility to institute changes as the enemy morphs and adapts, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said. Dempsey testified alongside Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Secretary of State John F. Kerry.
“Bipartisan support for an AUMF would send an important signal of national support to those who are serving in harm’s way conducting this mission,” the general said.
More than 60 nations are involved in the fight against ISIL, the chairman said.
“It’s actually the solidarity of all of our coalition members that is fundamental to the strength of our campaign against this transregional threat that ISIL represents,” Dempsey said. “The government of Iraq has a lot of work yet to do, with the help of the coalition, to ensure ISIL is defeated, and importantly, stays defeated, and that will take time.”
Iran, too, is concerned about ISIL and is providing anti-ISIL aid to Iraq, he noted. Senators asked Dempsey several questions about Iranian influence in Iraq.
“I think there’s general consensus both inside of our own forces and also with the coalition partners with whom I engage that anything anyone does to counter ISIL is in the main a good outcome,” he said. “In other words, the activities of the Iranians [and] the support for the Iraqi security forces is a positive thing in military terms against ISIL.
“But we are all concerned about what happens after the drums stop beating and ISIL is defeated,” Dempsey continued, “and whether the government of Iraq will remain on a path to provide an inclusive government for all of the various groups within it. We're very concerned about that.”
The chairman explained the current campaign in the region. The main U.S. anti-ISIL effort now is in Iraq, he said, because there is a credible ground partner there. “We don’t have that credible partner inside of Syria yet,” he said. “We’re taking steps to build a partner.”
Progress Against ISIL
And there has been progress, the chairman reported.
“Before we began this effort, … ISIL could transit freely across that Syrian-Iraqi border and reinforce efforts on both sides,” he said. “They’re no longer able to do that. They are isolated and degraded in Syria, while we conduct our main effort inside of Iraq.”
The senators asked a number of questions about the extent of U.S. participation allowed under the authorization. “The primary way you defeat these groups is by, with and through partners in the region and through sustainment of a broad coalition,” the chairman said.
U.S. forces should be enabling forces “not necessarily leading the effort,” he said.
If the authorization is not enough, the chairman said he will go back to the president to “recommend whatever I think is necessary to accomplish the task. But … as we presently conceive of this threat and how to defeat it, this AUMF is adequate to the task.”