Overnight Defense: Top general: US not winning ISIS war yet

THE TOPLINE: Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley cautioned Thursday that although there is progress in the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the U.S. is not winning yet. 

"There is progress. But progress is not yet winning. No one should think this is over. It is not. There's a lot of work to be done," he said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. 

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"The caliphate has to be destroyed. ISIS has to be destroyed. And they've also chosen to displace some of their forces in Libya and elsewhere, and they've counterattacked into Europe. This is a tough fight, and it's by no means over yet, and no one should be dancing in the end zone yet. There's a long way to go here," he continued. 

Still, Milley said "things are moving in the right direction" -- a change from when he visited Iraq last September. 

"The enemy had strategic momentum," he said. 

Read the whole story here

 

GENERAL: ISIS IN LIBYA HAS DOUBLED: The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has doubled its presence inside Libya in the last year, the top U.S. military commander overseeing operations in the region said Thursday.

The number of ISIS fighters in Libya doubled to between 4,000 to 6,000 in the last 12 to 18 months, Africa Command commander Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez said at a Pentagon briefing.

ISIS fighters in Libya are coming from within northern Africa and from Iraq and Syria, the general said. Some militants already within Libya have also switched alliances from other groups to ISIS, he added. 

Rodriguez said the militants aspire to carry out external attacks against Western and U.S. targets, similar to ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria. 

"That's been their aspirations all the time, and they are continuing with the same threats that ISIS main is making," he said.

Read more here.

 

GOP SLAMS OBAMA 'BAIT AND SWITCH' ON SYRIAN REFUGEES: Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) on Thursday slammed the Obama administration for using "bait-and-switch" tactics to expedite the processing of Syrian refugees to the U.S., a day after the first refugees arrived in Kansas City as part of a new surge program.

"President Obama has once again misled the American people and members of Congress in order to get his way. Obama and his Democrat allies in Congress have proven they will use bait-and-switch tactics to move more unvetted refugees into our communities. This will inevitably put our nation and our citizens at risk for future terrorist attacks," said Zinke, a combat veteran.

Administration officials have insisted that refugee processing would take 18 to 24 months, but the new surge program could minimize the waiting time to just three months. 

Read the rest here

 

ONE-THIRD OF IRAQIS THINK U.S. SUPPORTS TERRORISM: Nearly one-third of Iraqis think the United States supports terrorism in general and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) specifically, according to a recent State Department inspector general report.

Further, about half of Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites say they completely oppose the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS, according to the report on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad's counter-ISIS messaging.

"The embassy confronts active disinformation campaigns and residual suspicions about U.S. policy that undermine its messaging," the report says.

Read more about the new report here

 

MIDDLE EAST LEADERS CONCERNED ABOUT TRUMP: Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamTrump: Let ObamaCare implode Five takeaways from ObamaCare repeal’s collapse Graham, Trump discuss alternate ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (R-S.C.) said on Thursday that GOP presidential front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpRisks of accidental nuclear war with North Korea must be accounted for Police cheer Trump after jab at mayors who don't let them do their jobs NYPD will not attend Trump speech on MS-13 gang in Long Island MORE's rhetoric is raising concerns with allies in the Middle East.  

"They wanted to ask about Trump and I told them 'everybody asks me about Trump in terms of policy changes,'" he told reporters. "I said 'he's an outlier.'"

Graham, who dropped his own White House bid in December, just returned from a trip to the Middle East that included stops in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt. 

The Hill's Jordain Carney has more.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW: 

Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City at 2 p.m. 

 

ICYMI: 

-- The Hill: Report: ISIS kidnaps more than 300 Syrian workers

-- The Hill: Graham: Middle East leaders concerned about Trump

-- The Hill: Uber reaches military hiring milestone

-- Fox News: Rising Threats, Shrinking Military with Gates, Panetta, Hagel

-- War on the Rocks: Bernie Sanders' Foreign Policy 

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