Tag Archives: Martin Dempsey

​US ‘underestimated’ Islamic State militants in Syria – Obama

Publicly announcing that US intelligence agencies “underestimated” the presence and activity of Islamic State militants in Syria, US President Barack Obama in an interview with CBS called the country a “ground zero” for international jihadists.

“Over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swaths of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos,” Obama said in an interview made on Friday but aired on Sunday.

“And so this became ground zero for jihadists around the world,” he added.

Obama echoed comments previously made by James Clapper, US director of national intelligence which acknowledge how IS in Syria had been underestimated.

At the same time, Obama admitted that the Iraqi army’s capabilities in dealing with militant groups were also overestimated. Clapper made similar comments to a Washington Post columnist earlier this month.

“I didn’t see the collapse of the Iraqi security force in the north coming,” Clapper was quoted as saying. “I didn’t see that. It boils down to predicting the will to fight, which is an imponderable.”

IS has killed thousands of people and has staged three very high-profile beheadings of westerners in their ongoing seizure of parts of Syria and north-western Iraq.

Last week, US-led air strikes against IS which began in August in Iraq moved to Syria, and Obama has been attempting to forge a stronger broader coalition against the terrorists, with an international effort with Arab partners and involving the likes of Denmark, France and the UK.

Obama went on to describe his overall military strategy against IS.

“We just have to push them back, and shrink their space, and go after their command and control, and their capacity, and their weapons, and their fueling, and cut off their financing, and work to eliminate the flow of foreign fighters,” he said.

But US military officials admit that air attacks on IS strongholds are not achieving enough and a ground campaign is needed to crush the terrorists – with Kurdish forces in Iraq and the “moderate opposition” trained and equipped by the US in Syria.

“Yes, there has to be a ground component to the campaign against ISIL in Syria,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said last week, adding that earlier figures pertaining to a group of 5,000 prospective US-trained forces may be but a fraction of what is truly required to degrade and destroy the Islamic State.

 

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No airstrikes for now : US lacks intel to carry out attack in Iraq

American officials confirmed on Wednesday that the Iraqi government has explicitly asked the Pentagon to conduct airstrikes against insurgents taking their country by storm, but the United States is reportedly ill-prepared to wage suck attacks.

Intelligence gaps have left the White House uncertain about when or where to strike the militants, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday, worsening the likelihood that any aerial attack would prove to be successful.

“We have a request from the Iraqi government for air power,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told US lawmakers during a Senate hearing early Wednesday.

Dempsey added, however, that the results of a strike would be unknown “until we can clarify this intelligence picture” in Iraq.

“It’s not as easy as looking at an iPhone video of a convoy and then striking it,” the chairman told a Senate appropriations subcommittee, the AP reported.

Confirmation of the request from Baghdad comes less than two days after President Barack Obama announced that 275 US trooped would be deployed to America’s embassy there to protect diplomats in the midst of escalating violence.

In recent day, militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Syria group affiliated with Al-Qaeda have escalated a campaign that as of mid-week has led to the capture of two major cities and put Baghdad on high alert.

Following nearly a decade-long war on the heels of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Pres. Obama last week said that America will not “allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation” similar to what happened after that campaign.

“The United States is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that they’re prepared to work together,” he said.

That refusal to strike ISIS insurgents has since proven to be a dividing concept in the US, where lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are split with regards of what role, if any, American troops should have in the escalating crisis.

“I think most important is that we take direct action now against ISIS, marching down to Baghdad, and prevent them from getting into Baghdad,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) told reporters this week.

Pres. Obama was expected to meet at the White House on Wednesday with key congressional leaders, and the AP reported that Feinstein’s democratic colleague, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), expressed a difference of opinion before meeting with the commander-in-chief.

“It’s time for the Iraqis to resolve it themselves,” Reid told the AP. “Those who attack President Obama for bringing our troops home from Iraq are wrong and out of step with the American people. After a decade of war, the American people have had enough.”

If the US has clearer intelligence to rely on, however, then military officials believe a successful strike would be easy to undertake.

“I’m very confident that if the order comes down … our Air Force would be ready,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told the Defense Writers Group at a breakfast in Washington this week.

During Wednesday’s briefing, Dempsey added that the US has mobilized “a great deal of manned and unmanned ISR to gain clarity” in the region, according to the Guardian, referring to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance planes and other aircraft.

Breaking News – Iraq formally asks US to launch air strikes against rebels

top US military commander Gen Martin Dempsey

Iraq has formally called on the US to launch air strikes against jihadist militants who have seized several key cities over the past week.

“We have a request from the Iraqi government for air power,” confirmed top US military commander Gen Martin Dempsey in front of US senators.

Earlier the Sunni insurgents launched an attack on Iraq’s biggest oil refinery at Baiji north of Baghdad.

Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki earlier urged Iraqis to unite against the militants.

Government forces are battling to push back ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and its Sunni Muslim allies in Diyala and Salahuddin provinces, after the militants overran the second city, Mosul, last week.

US President Barack Obama is due to discuss the Iraq crisis with senior Congress members on Wednesday.

Ahead of the meeting Senate leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said he did not “support in any way” getting American troops involved in the Iraqi “civil war”.

But Gen Dempsey told a Senate panel that it was in America’s “national interest to counter [ISIS] wherever we find them”.

In other developments: