Statement on the Administration
Our Campaign Against ISIL
Will Be Long and Will Be Difficult
Statement on the Administration's
Strategy and Military Campaign Against ISIL Before the House Armed Services
Committee. As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Washington,
D.C., Thursday, November 13, 2014.
Source : Department of Defense.
Chairman, obviously your last hearing is not going unnoticed
and unrecognized. So we shall proceed.
As I was saying, I very much appreciate, and I know General
Dempsey does, the opportunity to come back after a couple of months and update
this committee on what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, why we’re doing it.
I know that this has not been, as you all know, the only
communication we have had with this committee. We have had many, many briefings
with your staff. Many of you I have spoken to directly, as well as General
Dempsey and many of our military leaders.
So to have this opportunity to bring together and some
convergence of explanation of what we’re doing and why and how I very much
Mr. Chairman, your leadership and your service to this
committee, to this Congress, to this country over many years has been recognized
many times appropriately over the last few months. It will continue to be
recognized. It should be recognized.
I want to thank you personally for your support, your
friendship. I have valued that over the last two years I’ve had the privilege of
holding this job. I will miss you personally and I know this committee will. But
there are so many very able and capable and dedicated people that are right next
to you that will carry on.
So I didn’t want this opportunity to go without me expressing
my thanks and best wishes to you and to your family and to the next chapter in
your life and your many new adventures that lie ahead.
As I noted, I’m joined this morning by the chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, who, I, too, have – like you have
appreciated his wise council and his partnership as we have dealt with some of
the most complex and difficult issues that I think this country has faced in a
And I know General Dempsey appreciates all of your service as
well. General Dempsey has played a critical role over the last six months,
especially in shaping and developing our strategy along with our CENTCOM
commander, who you all know, General Lloyd Austin.
To General Austin and his commanders and to our men and women,
I want to thank them.
Mr. Chairman, President Obama, Chairman Dempsey, General
Austin, all of our leaders and I have been very clear that our campaign against
ISIL will be long and will be difficult. We are three months into a multiyear
As we enter a new phase of this effort, working to train and
equip more counter ISIL forces in both Iraq and Syria, we will succeed only with
the strong support of Congress and the strong support of this committee.
Since I testified before this committee two months ago, our
campaign against ISIL has made progress. ISIL’s advance in parts of Iraq has
stalled and in some cases been reversed by Iraqi, Kurdish and tribal forces
supported by U.S. and coalition airstrikes.
But ISIL continues to represent a serious threat to American
interests, our allies in the Middle East. And will still influence over a broad
swath of territory in Western and Northern Iraq and Eastern Syria.
But as President Obama has said, ISIL will not be defeated
through military force alone.
Our comprehensive strategy is focused on supporting inclusive
governance, sustaining a broad-based regional and global coalition and
strengthening local forces on the ground. It also includes undercutting ISIL’s
flow of resources, countering ISIL’s messaging, constricting the flow of foreign
fighters, providing humanitarian assistance and our intensive regional and
global diplomatic effort.
In Iraq, much more needs to be done to achieve political
reform. But we are seeing steps in the right direction. In the wake of years of
polarizing leadership, Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi is leaning forward by engaging
all of Iraqi’s diverse communities. He’s appointed a Sunni defense minister
after that post was left vacant for more than four years. And he’s moving to
create a Iraqi National Guard which would empower local forces, especially in
Sunni tribal areas of Anbar Province while aligning them with the central
And you may have noticed that yesterday it was announced that
he replaced 36 of his most senior commanders, integrating the Iraqi Security
Forces with more senior Sunni leaders. This is essential to strengthening not
only the Iraqi Security Forces but strengthening a central government, a
government in Iraq that, in fact, can build trust and confidence of the Iraqi
Thanks to intensive diplomacy, America is not supporting this
effort alone. We have built a global coalition to support local forces in both
Iraq and Syria, a coalition of over 60 nations that are contributing assistance
ranging from air support to training to humanitarian assistance.
Since I testified here, 16 nations have joined the military
campaign against ISIL.
The first coalition airstrikes in Syria involved Bahrain,
Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a tremendous
demonstration of unity among our Middle East Arab partners.
Coalition partners have carried out 130 airstrikes against
ISIL in both Iraq and Syria. Last week, Canada launched its first airstrikes in
Iraq, bringing the total to 12 nations participating in strike operations in
Iraq and Syria, as additional partners provide tanker command and control and
intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.
Coalition nations have also pledged hundreds of personnel to
support our mission to train, advise, assist and help build the capacity of
Our global coalition is also helping shape the burden of the
campaign with nearly all our coalition partners funding their own contributions.
With the President’s Special Envoy for our counter ISIL
coalition General John Allen. General Allen is in the lead as he coordinates the
coalition strategy and contributions across all our lines of effort with our
As a coalition and as a nation, we must prepare for a long
and difficult struggle. There will be setbacks, but we are seeing steady and
And, Mr. Chairman, I think that’s an important part of
answering the questions we have, the questions we have about our own strategy
that we ask ourselves, the questions you have about our strategy.
Can we sustain it?
Can be it be sustained after at some point we leave?
That is a critical component of our strategy, asking that
question and answering that question.
We’re seeing steady and sustainable progress along DOD’s two
main lines of effort.
First, we’re seeing progress in degrading and destroying
ISIL’s warfighting capacity and in denying safe haven to its fighters.
Directly and through support of Iraqi forces, coalition
airstrikes have hit ISIL’s command and control, its leadership, its revenue
sources, its supply lines and logistics and impaired its ability to mass forces.
In recent weeks, these strikes helped Peshmerga forces push ISIL out of Zumar in
northern Iraq and helped Iraqi Security Forces begin retaking areas around the
major oil refinery at Baiji. Last weekend, airstrikes hit a gathering of ISIL
battlefield commanders near Mosul.
ISIL fighters have been forced to alter their tactics. We
knew they would. They will adapt. They will adjust, maneuvering in smaller
groups, sometimes making it more difficult to identify targets, hiding large
equipment and changing their communications methods.
Sustaining this pressure on ISIL will help provide time and
space, time and space for Iraq to reconstitute its forces and continue going on
the offense. This pressure is having an effect on potential ISIL recruits and
collaborators, striking a blow to morale and recruitment. We know that. Our
intelligence is very clear on that. And as Iraqi forces build strength, the
tempo and intensity of our coalition’s air campaign will accelerate in tandem.
We need to continue to help build partner capacity so that
local forces can take the fight to ISIL and ultimately defeat it.
Today, many of the approximately 1,400 U.S. troops in Iraq
are engaged in advise-and-assist programs with Iraqi and Kurdish forces. As you
know, last week the Defense Department announced that we will expand the support
to Iraqi forces by deploying up to 1,500 additional military personnel including
two new advise-and-assist centers at locations beyond Baghdad and Irbil, as well
as four new training centers in northern, western and central Iraq. I
recommended this deployment to the President based on the request of the
government of Iraq, U.S. Central Command’s assessment of Iraqi units, General
Dempsey’s recommendation and the strength of the Iraqi and coalition’s campaign
These additional troops and facilities will help strengthen
and reconstitute Iraqi forces, expanding the geography of our mission but not
the mission itself. U.S. military personnel will not be engaged in a ground
Our phased plan to help strengthen Iraqi Security Forces has
three major components. First, our advise-and-assist mission that is partnering
coalition advisers with Iraqi forces at the headquarters level. U.S. and
coalition advisers are already helping plan current and future operations. And,
as noted, we will expand this mission with two new advise-and-assist centers
that we have announced.
Second, we will support the regeneration of Iraqi forces so
that they are better equipped to launch offensive operations over the coming
year. CENTCOM’s new training sites in northern, western and central Iraq will
help train 12 Iraqi brigades. And more than a dozen coalition nations have
expressed their intent to send trainers and advisers to help build the capacity
of Iraqi forces.
Third, we will concentrate on broader security sector reform
to help transform Iraqi forces into a more coherent and capable unified force.
This includes Prime Minister Abadi’s initiative to develop provincially based
National Guard units, which I mentioned earlier.
Coalition partners are playing an important role in all these
efforts by providing advisers and trainers to help regenerate Iraqi combat
Together we are also providing more arms and equipment to
Iraqi Security Forces. This year the United States alone has shipped more than
$685 million in critical equipment and supplies to Iraq, ranging from grenades
and small arms to tank ammunition, helicopter rockets and Hellfire missiles,
hundreds of which will be arriving this month. U.S. and coalition partners
together have delivered over 2.7 million pounds of supplies, including 33
million rounds of ammunition to Peshmerga forces alone.
Mr. Chairman, in Syria our actions against ISIL are focused
on shaping the dynamic in Iraq which remains the priority of our counter ISIL
strategy. But we are sober about the challenges we face as ISIL exploits the
complicated long-running Syrian conflict.
Because we do not have a partner government to work with in
Syria or regular military partners to work with, as we do in Iraq, in the near
term, our military aims in Syria are limited to isolating and destroying ISIL’s
Coalition air strikes in Syria are accomplishing this by
containing -- or continuing to target significant ISIL assets, which has
impaired ISIL’s ability to move fighters and equipment into Iraq, disrupted
their command and control, damaged their training bases, and significantly
limited their financial revenue by hitting captured oil fields and disrupting
their crude oil distribution and collection sites.
The Defense Department’s longer term effort is to train and
equip credible, moderate Syrian opposition forces, especially from areas most
threatened by ISIL. This will require at least eight to 12 months to begin
making a difference on the ground. We know the opposition will continue to face
intense pressure in a multifront battle space. And we are considering options
for how U.S. and coalition forces can further support these forces once they are
trained and equipped. These forces are being trained in units, not as
Our strategy in Syria will demand time, patience,
perseverance to deliver results. We cannot accomplish our objectives in Syria
all at once.
The position of the United States remains that Asad has lost
the legitimacy to govern, that there is no purely military solution to the
conflict in Syria. Alongside our efforts to isolate and sanction the Asad regime,
our strategy is to strengthen the moderate opposition to the point where they –
where they can first defend and control their local areas. Next, go on the
offense and take back areas that have been lost to ISIL. And, ultimately, as
their capability and leverage develop, to create conditions for a political
settlement in Syria.
Thanks to the broad bipartisan support in Congress, Mr.
Chairman, including majorities in both parties, preparations for our Syria
train-and-equip mission are now complete. We’ve established a combined joint
interagency task force to coordinate the coalition’s train-and-equip program for
Syria. Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other partner nations have agreed to host
training sites. Development of those sites, recruiting and vetting will begin
when Congress has authorized the actual funding.
But we are still moving forward, doing what we must do to
prepare for that vetting process and that training.
We are still at the front end of our campaign against ISIL.
As President Obama told leaders of both houses of Congress
last week during a session, which I attended with General Austin. Congressional
support, your support, is vital for the campaign to succeed.
As you all know the administration is requesting $5.6 billion
in additional Overseas Contingency Operations funding for fiscal year 2015 to
help execute our comprehensive strategy in Iraq and Syria. $5 billion of it for
the Department of Defense.
$3.4 billion would support ongoing U.S. military actions
against ISIL under Operation Inherent Resolve.
$1.6 billion would go toward a new Iraqi train-and-equip fund
devoted to helping reconstitute Iraq’s security forces. This fund will be
critical for enabling Iraqi Security Forces, including Kurdish and tribal
forces, to go on the offense in 2015. And it will require the Iraqi government
and coalition members to make significant contributions as well. Over 60 %
[sic], or $1 billion, of the $1.6 billion fund would be available initially. The
remaining $600 million would not be released until the government of Iraq and
coalition partners have provided at least $600 million of their own
contributions, because the Iraqi government must invest in its own security and
its own future.
As the President said last week, the administration will be
engaging the Congress to support the effort against ISIL by enacting a new and
specific Authorization for the Use of Military Force, one that reflects the
scope and the challenges of our campaign against ISIL.
DoD will work closely with the Congress on each component of
As this mission continues to progress, we will continue to
evaluate and reevaluate each element of our strategy.
Having just marked Veterans Day earlier this week, let me
again thank this committee for what you do every day to support all our men and
women in uniform and their families serving this country across the world.
Mr. Chairman, thank you.