WASHINGTON, July 15, 2014 —
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with other top military officials understand the urgency of the situation in Iraq, but will act deliberately in forming recommendations based on the draft assessments that American teams have submitted, the Pentagon press secretary said today.
All those involved are approaching the assessments with open minds, and no recommendations are attached to the assessments right now, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said during a Pentagon news conference.
Any recommendations would “follow the intent the commander in chief has expressed from the beginning, which is to explore ways to help the Iraqi security forces confront the threat that exists within their own country from [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant],” Kirby said.
Though there is no timeline for the recommendations, all in the decision cycle understand the urgency, he said. “We’re going to be deliberate about it,” Kirby added. “We’re going to be measured. We’re going to keep an open mind. And as we said before, getting this done right is more important than getting it done quickly.”
Iraq is again a dangerous, “contested” place, Kirby said. “There are still innocent Iraqis suffering as a result of ISIL and their activities inside Iraq,” he said.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant still poses a legitimate threat to Baghdad and its environs, the admiral said. “We continue to see Iraqi security forces prepare themselves and stiffen themselves to defend the capital,” he said. “We believe that they will fight to defend Baghdad. We also have seen Iraqi security forces go on the offensive in places like Tikrit, which they are still fighting for right now.”
Iraqi security forces have solidified their gains against the terror group. They now maintain control of the oil refinery in Bayji and the Haditha Dam. “But there are areas well north of the capital up in the north-central to northwest part of the country which fell quite quickly to ISIL, that are now contested, that [Iraqi security forces] and even some [Kurdish] forces are fighting back and retaking,” Kirby said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. assessment teams in Iraq continue their work, examining the Iraqi security forces and determining their cohesiveness and capabilities, Kirby said. They are also studying what is happening on the ground and are studying ISIL, he added.
Finally, the teams are working “to give us a sense of what an advisory mission could or would look like, should we move to that,” the admiral said.
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