Signalling a further expansion of US operations against the Islamic State, America’s top general said on Thursday that the jihadists cannot be defeated in Iraq without confronting the group in Syria.
General Martin Dempsey said the US and its allies, in both the Middle East and beyond, would need to combine their efforts to defeat the Islamic State over “both sides of what is essentially at this point a nonexistent border”.
Dempsey said would the campaign would have to be more than US airstrikes in Iraq and/or Syria: “I’m not predicting those (airstrikes) will occur in Syria, at least not by the United States of America. But it requires the application of all the tools of national power — diplomatic, economic, information, military.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, alongside Dempsey at a Pentagon news conference, echoed that Washington is “looking at all options” to stop the expansion of the Islamic State, as “sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen.”
In Iraq, US airstrikes are supporting a Kurdish counter-offensive against the Islamic State in the north, with the recapture of Mosul Dam on Monday.
However, with respect to Syria, Dempsey and Hagel did not indicate if the US plans would include support of the Syrian insurgency, currently in a protracted battle with the Islamic State across the north and east of the country.
Alternatively, they did not indicate if the US was countenancing cooperation with the Assad regime, in a growing conflict with the jihadists since the Islamic State broke a non-aggression arrangement in June.
At least 73 Killed in Sunni Mosque by Shia Militia
At least 73 people were killed on Friday when a Shia militia opened fire inside a Sunni mosque in Baquba in eastern Iraq.
Local sources speculated that the attack could have been retaliation for a roadside bombing of a recruitment event organised by the Shia militia.