Today, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to discuss the United States' strategy to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a terrorist organization that is killing innocent, unarmed civilians in both Iraq and Syria. In his testimony, Secretary Kerry said:
"...At its core, our strategy is centered on a global coalition that will collaborate closely across a number of specific areas, including direct and indirect military support. Military assistance can come in a range of forms, from training and equipping to logistics and airlift, and countries from inside and outside of our region are already right now providing that support in these venues.
"I’ve also no doubt whatsoever that we will have the capabilities and the resources we need to succeed militarily. And President Obama made clear that we will be expanding the military campaign to take on ISIL in Iraq, in Syria, wherever it is found. But this is not the Gulf war in 1991; it is not the Iraq war in 2003; and that’s true for a number of reasons.
"Number one, U.S. ground troops will not be sent into combat in this conflict. From the last decade we know that a sustainable strategy is not U.S. ground forces; it is enabling local forces to do what they have to do for themselves and for their country. I want to be clear: The U.S. troops that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission. Instead, they will support Iraq forces on the ground as they fight for their country against these terrorists. And in Syria, the on-the-ground combat will be done by the moderate opposition, which serves as the current best counterweight in Syria to extremists like ISIL. We know that ISIL -- as it gets weaker, the moderate opposition will get stronger. And that will be critical in our efforts to bring about the political solution necessary to address the crisis in Syria once and for all. That is one of the reasons why it is so critical that Congress authorize the opposition train-and-equip mission when it comes to the floor. But it’s also critical that the opposition makes the most of the additional support, the kind of support that they’ve been requesting now for years. And they need to take this opportunity to prove to the world that they can become a viable alternative to the current regime.
"Number two, this is more than just a military coalition, and I want to emphasize that. In some ways, some of the most important aspects of what we will be doing are not military. This mission isn’t just about taking out an enemy on the battlefield; it’s about taking out a network, decimating and discrediting a militant cult masquerading as a religious movement. It’s similar to what we’ve been doing to al-Qaida these last years. The bottom line is we will not be successful with a military campaign alone, and we know it. Nor are we asking every country to play a military role. We don’t need every country to engage in that kind of military action, and frankly, we’re not asking them and we don’t want every country to do that. Only a holistic campaign will accomplish our objectives.
"In addition to the military campaign, it will be equally important for the global coalition to dry up ISIL’s illicit funding. And by the way, the Bahrainis at the meeting in Jeddah have offered to host a meeting -- because they’ve been already engaged in this – that brings people together to focus on precisely the steps we can all take to do this. And that can positively have an impact not just on ISIL but on other flows of terrorism support.
"We have to stop the foreign fighters who carry passports from countries around the world, including the United States, to continue to deliver. And we also need, obviously, to continue to deliver urgently needed humanitarian assistance.
"And finally, and this is really -- you can’t overstate this. We must continue to repudiate the gross distortion of Islam that ISIL is spreading, put an end to the sermons by extremists that brainwash young men to join these movements and commit mass atrocities in the name of God. I was very encouraged to hear that Saudi Arabia’s top clerics came out and declared terrorism a heinous crime under Sharia law and that the perpetrators should be made an example of. And I think -- I might just mention -- I’ll wait till we get in the Q&A. I’ll come back to this, but a very important statement was made today by the top clerics in the region, and I want to come back to that because I think it’s critical.
"But let me just emphasize that when we say global coalition, we mean it. And this is not -- and Australia, other countries, the Far East, countries in Europe have all taken on already initial responsibilities.
"So, my colleagues, we are committed to working with countries in every corner of the globe to match the campaign with the capabilities that we need to fight it. And I can tell you today that every single person I spoke to in Wales at the Wales summit, in Jeddah, in Paris -- where we had more than 30 countries and entities -- they all expressed strong support for our mission and a willingness to help in some way.
"We had excellent meetings and our meetings in Baghdad and in Cairo and in Ankara also advanced the process. At the conference in Paris, we took another step towards the UNGA meetings this week. And the UNGA meetings, unlike the meetings we’ve had thus far, which have all been behind closed doors, the UNGA meetings -- these countries will be speaking out publicly at the United Nations Security Council and the world will begin to see what each of these countries are prepared to do."
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