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United States at War With ISIL Militants

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2014 — The United States is at war with the terror group ISIL, “in the same way we're at war and continue to be at war with al-Qaida and its affiliates,” Pentagon press secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said here today.

It is a different type of war than Americans have seen, he noted. “There’s not going to be a purely military solution to the threat that ISIL poses in the region, specifically inside Iraq,” the admiral said. “There’s not going to be a military solution here.”

Still, there is a large military component to the war and the United States will lead in efforts to degrade and ultimately destroy the group.

U.S. airstrikes continue

U.S. military have launched about 160 airstrikes against ISIL targets inside Iraq. The president has vowed to continue the fight against the Islamic militants inside Syria.

American service members will transition to an advise and assist role with Iraqi security forces. They will help Iraqis take back territory lost to ISIL, the admiral said.

Destroying ISIL ideology

Destroying ISIL means ending the terrorist group’s ideological appeal to the people of the region. In a news conference weeks ago, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said ISIL will be defeated when the 20 million Sunni Arabs between Damascus and Baghdad feel that they are governed fairly.

Destroying ISIL will take “the ultimate destruction of their ideology,” Kirby said. “That also can’t be done just through military means alone,” he said. “That has to be done through good governance, both in Iraq and in Syria … and in a responsive political process, so that the people that are falling sway to this radical ideology are no longer drawn to it.”

A unique war

ISIL is a unique problem. It is not an army, but intelligence officials place the number of adherents at between 20,000 and 31,500. “This is a terrorist group,” Kirby said. “Now, they behave in many ways militarily. They’re unlike other terrorist groups that we've had to deal with because they are concerned about grabbing and holding ground, being in control of infrastructure, developing streams of revenue, and they have these visions of governance of their own, brutal as it is.”

U.S. military goals are about degrading and destroying ISIL’s capabilities to attack targets, particularly Western targets, the admiral said.

A coalition approach

Destroying ISIL requires a coalition of countries, with each bringing their own special expertise and capabilities to the war.

“Some countries have signed up for more aggressive kinetic activity than others,” Kirby said. “Some are willing to do transportation of assistance. Some are willing to contribute monetarily to the effort. Others are willing to participate in more aggressive military actions.”

“We are seeing the coalition build in size and scope,” Kirby said.

Many Arab countries and the Arab League have agreed that ISIL is a danger that all in the region must deal with.

The United States will provide leadership to this coalition.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)