US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has told senators that the United States is “at war” with the ISIL terrorist group in Syria and Iraq.
The Pentagon chief told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the US fight against ISIL “will not be an easy or brief effort. It is complicated.”
“We are at war with ISIL, as we are with al-Qaeda,” Hagel said. “But destroying ISIL will require more than military efforts alone. It will require political progress in the region, and effective partners on the ground in Iraq and Syria.”
He added that ISIL will “directly threaten our homeland and our allies” unless the United States confronts the group militarily.
He defined victory as “when we complete the mission of degrading, destroying and defeating ISIL.”
Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey appeared before the Senate panel to defend President Barack Obama’s newest war in the Middle East region.
Hagel said he will recommend having US “military advisors” fight with Iraqi troops against the terrorist group if the situation requires it.
“To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the president,” said Dempsey.
Dempsey’s remarks are against the stated official US policy. President Barack Obama has repeatedly said that the US will not send its troops on combat missions against ISIL.
The Pentagon has deployed more than 1000 troops to Iraq. The US calls them military advisors, but according to American defense officials, the troops are comprised of Marines and special operations forces from the US Central Command region.
The ISIL terrorists, who were initially trained by the CIA in Jordan in 2012 to destabilize the Syrian government, control large parts of Syria’s northern territory. ISIL sent its fighters into Iraq in June, quickly seizing large swaths of land straddling the border between the two countries.
According to reports, ISIL is currently in control of seven oil fields in Iraq and large amounts of the country’s wheat supplies.
Iraqi officials said on August 13 that the militants were holding government silos in five of Iraq’s most fertile provinces, where the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) says 40 percent of the country’s wheat is grown.
The output capacity of the ISIL-held oil fields amounts to 80,000 barrels a day, said the International Energy Agency (IEA) in a monthly oil market report last month.
The potential oil flow from Iraq’s ISIL-held deposits is commensurate to about $8.4 million a day on international markets.