ROME, Jan. 19, 2015 —
Terrorism and Russian aggression are two "very distinct threats" to European security, according to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told Italian counterpart Chief of Defense Adm. Luigi Binelli Mantelli and Minister of Defense Roberta Pinotti each of those threats requires a "different kind of cooperation."
The leaders discussed a variety of topics in meetings here today, including threats to Italy's southern flank. Dempsey praised Italy for its significant contributions to coalition missions, including in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The threat from Islamic terrorists will not get any easier, the chairman said.
"I think this threat is probably a 30-year issue," he said, noting that terrorists easily recruit young fighters via the Internet. Counter-messaging is one of the lines of strategy in defeating extremists, he said.
Italy has made important contributions to the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, the chairman said.
Extremism and Russian Aggression
For the first time in a "very long time," the United States and its allies are facing the "very distinct threats" of a conventional state threat from Russia, Dempsey said, and the unconventional threat of terrorism from extremists.
"Where Italy sits, strategically, you're faced with the reality of dealing with both of those threats, as we are; I think that draws us closer together," he said.
There is concern, both sides noted, that foreign fighters could be moving through Italy's and NATO's southern flanks. Close to 170,000 refugees have come through Italy's shores in the past year.
Dempsey said the approach in dealing with extremism should consider the swath of countries from the Middle East to Africa, where ISIL and other terrorist groups operate.
"Looking at it one country at a time is not the answer," he said, noting he and other allies will discuss the issue Wednesday and Thursday in NATO meetings in Brussels.
He said Russian aggression will also be a topic in the NATO talks.
'Deliberate' Pace in Iraq
Italy has made tremendous contributions to international missions, he said. Thousands of Italian troops are currently deployed in various operations including in Iraq, Kosovo, the Horn of Africa, and with the United Nations mission in Lebanon.
Italy and the U.S. are the top contributors of on-the-ground trainers and advisors who are enabling the Kurds and Iraqis in the fight against extremists, defense officials noted.
Dempsey thanked Italy for its commitment to Iraq's peace and security, saying, "You contributed and are continuing to contribute meaningful capabilities there."
The chairman described the pace of military efforts in Iraq as "deliberate" and steady.
"Fast is not what we are looking for," he said.
The chairman said it is important to maintain a pace that ensures the Iraqi forces lead the effort as the Iraqi government moves to bridge the sectarian divides that have plagued the nation.
"This must be their fight," he said.
Strong Partner to the United States
Dempsey and the Italian officials praised the strong ties between their countries.
"Our bilateral relationship has probably never been stronger, at least in recent years," Dempsey said, remarking that Italy is a key ally and valuable partner to the United States.
"I think that's a combination of factors; one is our deep history and the fact that our two people are so intertwined both here and back in the United States," he said.
'Great Foundation' for New Italian Chief of Defense
Dempsey thanked Binelli Mantelli, who is retiring next month, for his dedicated service to Italy and its allies, and in keeping Italy safe.
"It's a great compliment to you," Dempsey said. "You've established a great foundation for (incoming Chief of Defense) Gen. (Claudio) Graziano to build on."