Joint Chiefs chairman: We'll give Trump 'full range' of options for defeating ISIS

Joint Chiefs chairman: We'll give Trump 'full range' of options for defeating ISIS
© Francis Rivera

The top general in the U.S. military says a “full range” of options are being considered to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as part of the 30-day strategy review ordered by President Trump.

“I think it is fair to say that we’ll provide him a full range of options,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford said Thursday at the Brookings Institution. “I’m not prepared to say whether or not there’ll be a change because the decider is going to be the president of the United States.”

Trump gave the Pentagon 30 days to come up with a new strategy to defeat ISIS, a deadline the Pentagon said Tuesday it will meet next week.

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Dunford repeatedly declined to answer questions about what specific options the Pentagon will present to the president, including whether the U.S. military will have an enduring presence in Iraq after the battlefield defeat of ISIS, whether more U.S. troops will be sent to Syria and whether the United States might decrease support for Kurdish fighters to appease Turkey.

The Pentagon is reportedly considering recommending conventional ground forces in Syria for the first time to augment special operations troops and local fighters as the effort to retake the town of Raqqa ramps up.

Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, said Wednesday that “perhaps” more U.S. troops will be sent to Syria.

While declining to elaborate on specific options, Dunford said the goal is to present Trump with the potential effects of each option.

“Everything we do or fail to do will have second and third effects,” Dunford said. “When we provide him options, we’ll talk about the importance of our Turkish ally and make sure that our plans are consistent with maintaining a strong alliance with Turkey. We’ll talk about the implications of the Kurdish challenges of the region, which as you know is not isolated to one particular Kurdish group, but many Kurdish groups that have interests. We’ll talk about the complexity of dealing with Turkish forces, Iranian interests in the region, the presence of Russia and all of those things.”

The plan will also include both political and military aspects with input from the State Department, intelligence community and Treasury Department, Dunford said.

“This plan is a political-military plan,” he said. “It is not a military plan."

Dunford also stressed that there are no easy answers to the problems the United States faces today.

“The only people that have simple solutions to complex problems,” he said, “are refugees from accountability.”