Pentagon officials provided an update on Friday concerning the campaign being waged against militants from the so-called Islamic State and said the operation remains a ways from being over.
In a press conference from the United States military’s headquarters near Washington, DC on Friday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said the US-led campaign against the group also known as ISIS, or ISIL is still in its infancy, but continues to garner support from the international community. In order to succeed, however, an infantry of up to 15,000 fighters may need to be trained to take on the extremists.
The US began launching attacks at ISIS strongholds in Syria for the first time this week in addition to targets in Iraq, and Gen. Dempsey said at Friday’s presser that those efforts may have already begun to pay off.
This week’s strikes supplied by the US military and a coalition of five Arab nation partners disrupted the Islamic State’s command and control and logistics ability, Dempsey said, and has helped deny the militants the freedom of movement in the area following a months-long campaign that already allowed ISIS to take over towns across the region.
Sec. Hagel said that the Pentagon has so far launched 43 airstrikes in Syria and, combined with ongoing efforts in Iraq, will continue to strike targets as the international community comes together to fight ISIS as well.
In the few days since the US began striking Syria, Hagel said, “the governments of Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands have announced their intention to participate” in the American-led campaign against ISIS, with the UK’s parliament voting in favor of doing as much only moments before Friday’s briefing began at the Pentagon.
According to the US government, more than 40 nations — including Syria’s Middle East neighbors of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saud Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan — have so far pledged support to the anti-ISIS campaign. As the US continues to insist that American forces will avoid taking on a combat role on the ground in Iraq or Syria, however, the Pentagon officials acknowledged that a properly trained army must be assembled in order to conquer the Islamic State since an aerial campaign alone can’t solve the conflict.
“No one is under any illusion — under any illusions — that airstrikes alone will destroy ISIL,” Hagel told reporters. “They are one element of our broader, comprehensive campaign against ISISL.”