Dempsey: President Seeks Advice on Improving Iraq Mission

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity


JERUSALEM, June 9, 2015 — President Barack Obama has asked the military for recommendations on how to make the effort to train and equip Iraqi security forces more effective, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

“What he’s asked us to do is take a look at what we’ve learned over the last eight months in the train-and-equip program and make recommendations to him on whether there are capabilities that we may want to provide to the Iraqis to actually make them more capable,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said to reporters traveling with him.

“He’s asked us to look at whether there are other locations where we might establish training sites,” the general added. “He’s asked us to take a look at how we might develop Iraq’s leaders.”

The president asked military leaders to examine where there has been success and where the effort “may have been moving at a pace that’s late-to-need or where certain units have not stood and fought,” Dempsey said.

Looking at Ways to Instill Confidence

The Joint Chiefs are looking at ways to instill confidence in Iraqi forces or other means to improve their training, the chairman said. They have made some recommendations, he said, but follow-on questions must first be answered, such as how recommendations would be implemented, what risks they might entail to the mission and the force, and trade-offs around the globe.

U.S. military capabilities are needed in other parts of the world, Dempsey noted. U.S. forces are operating in Europe to reassure NATO allies in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine, there are additional issues in the Persian Gulf region related to reassuring allies against Iranian threats, and U.S. forces still are needed in Afghanistan, he said.

In addition, the general said, “some of our Pacific allies are unsettled by Chinese reclamation projects, so we’ve got work to do with our allies there.”

Necessary Troop Levels Undetermined

Whether more troops will be needed in Iraq remains to be seen, the chairman said. The process calls for the U.S. Central Command Commander Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III to determine how recommendations would be put in place, he explained.

“We try not to negotiate the resources before we negotiate the concept,” Dempsey said. “Then we ask at some point is if he has the resources currently assigned.” If the answer is no, then we look across the force to see where they can be generated.

“I haven’t received from Centcom the assessment of resources required,” he continued, “and that is appropriate, because I want to first understand that we have a concept that could actually improve capability.”

The president specifically asked about enhancing the train-and-equip mission, Dempsey said. “It wasn’t whether there are options that would imply the strategy is ineffective, it was, rather, ‘Are there things we can do?’” he said.

The military has two lines of effort against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Iraq. One entails a combination of airstrikes and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to support the Iraqi security forces. The other is to train and equip the Iraqi security forces to take the fight to ISIL.

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