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Joint Chiefs Chairman Dempsey makes surprise visit to Baghdad

"Most of them have been here before, and so they know what it is going to take to defeat ISIL militarily," Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said of American troops serving in Iraq.

By Doug G. Ware
Joint Chiefs Chairman Dempsey makes surprise visit to Baghdad
U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks with service members deployed to Iraq during a town hall in Baghdad on Saturday, July 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of: Department of Defense / U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Hinton.

BAGHDAD, July 18 (UPI) -- The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff made an unannounced visit to military installations in Baghdad, the Pentagon said Saturday.

U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey arrived in Iraq to discuss progress in the ongoing fight against Mideast terrorist factions -- specifically, the Islamic State -- the Defense Department said in a statement.

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Dempsey spoke with military leaders and soldiers about the entire scope of their experiences in the war-torn nation, which has seen American military intervention there for most of the last 25 years -- beginning with the first Gulf War in 1990.

"The most important thing was to interact with those who are doing the mission," Dempsey told reporters traveling with him. "I didn't find that to be a challenge. They were actually quite incredible in understanding what we recommend they do."

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Among other things, Dempsey asked service men and women if they have everything they need to mount an effective strategy to stabilize the country and train Iraqi forces to fight the Islamic State -- often known by the acronyms ISIS (Syria) and ISIL (Iraq). He was told that they do, the Pentagon said.

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"They are not [just] telling me what I want to hear," Dempsey said. "Most of them have been here before, and so they know what it is going to take to defeat ISIL militarily, and also to ensure we don't contribute to this ideology that is the foundation of this movement called ISIL."

The Islamic State has, at least somewhat effectively, disrupted peace processes in the Mideast nation and continues its jihad against oppressors. Currently, 60 nations -- along with Iraqi, Kurdish and Sunni forces -- are battling the insurgent terror group.

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Basically, the group aims to stamp out enemies of radical Islam -- most emphatically, the United States and Western allies.

"It is about building partners inside that can continually displace ISIL and who are in a much better place to displace the ideology than we are," he said.

The Islamic State uses a campaign of terror that involves various methodologies -- such as videotaped beheadings and gruesomely inventive methods to kill -- as well as a sophisticated worldwide Internet-based public relations strategy to attract and inspire supporters.

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The group's tactics, consequently, have presented the American military with unprecedented challenges and the task of trying to fight a new breed of terrorism with virtually no blueprint for success. Further, there is growing concern among U.S. troops deployed in the Middle East of approaching cuts in military spending and a reduction in force.

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The Army may cut its allotment of soldiers from nearly 500,000 to 420,000, Dempsey said, if the budget cuts -- scheduled for October -- aren't amended by Congress.

"What you are hearing -- not only from the Army's leadership, but the rank and file -- is that they are concerned that we will do that," Dempsey said. "We won't reduce commitments."

"Sailors tell me the same thing, airmen the same, and Marines say the same thing. They say, 'You are going to put this on my back, aren't you?' I keep saying, 'No, we're not, but I'm here to tell you I am concerned,' " he added.

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