General Dempsey: Some Iraqi Troops Show Up for Training Ill-Prepared

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Image: Martin Dempsey; Pierre de Villiers
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, left, confers with his French counterpart, Gen. Pierre de Villiers, aboard the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the Persian Gulf on Sunday, March 8, 2015.Bob Burns / AP

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ABOARD THE CHARLES DE GAULLE — Some Iraqi army units in line for U.S.-led training to fight ISIS are showing up ill-prepared, the top American general said Sunday.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, speaking to reporters aboard this French aircraft carrier in the northern Persian Gulf not far from Iran's coast, said he sees no reason to send more U.S. military trainers or advisers at this time. More, broadly, he defended the pace of the overall military campaign in Iraq.

"Right now we don't need more advisers on the ground," Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said with his French counterpart, Gen. Pierre de Villiers, at his side on the hangar deck of the de Gaulle.

"We've got trainers and advisers that are waiting for some of the Iraqi units to show up, and when they've shown up — a handful of them — they've shown up understrength and sometimes without the proper equipment. The Iraqi government can actually fix that themselves."

The crux of the U.S.-led coalition's strategy for dislodging ISIS from Iraq is this: degrade the militants' fighting power and resources through limited airstrikes against positions in northern and western Iraq, as well as in Syria; train and advise underperforming Iraqi security forces; and press the Iraqi government to take firmer steps to reconcile with the disaffected Sunnis.

"This is going to require some strategic patience," Dempsey said.

He said the military part of the conflict could be concluded "in the foreseeable future." The underlying problems — failures in Iraqi governance and a disaffected Sunni population — probably will take longer to resolve.

Dempsey spent the day aboard the de Gaulle to highlight U.S.-French military cooperation and to discuss strategies for combating ISIS in Iraq. He planned to visit Iraq next to discuss the campaign with government leaders and U.S. military commanders.

Dempsey was asked by reporters to respond to criticism by some that the U.S. is not using air power aggressively enough in Iraq and Syria. Dempsey said there are valid reasons for limiting the pace of the bombing while other aspects of the conflict are addressed.

"Carpet bombing through Iraq is not the answer," he said, adding that ISIS fighters have adapted since the U.S.-led bombing began in Iraqi in August.

"This is not an enemy that is sitting around in the open desert waiting for me to come find it and either use U.S. or French aircraft to attack it," Dempsey said. "They did some of that in the beginning and paid the price. So the enemy has adapted and they have developed tactics and techniques that make them a little more difficult to find."

Image: Martin Dempsey; Pierre de Villiers
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, left, confers with his French counterpart, Gen. Pierre de Villiers, aboard the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the Persian Gulf on Sunday, March 8, 2015.Bob Burns / AP

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