In an effort to counter Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain’s sharp criticism of the Administration’s air campaign in Iraq and Syria on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter pointed to the recent advances in northern Syria by the Kurdish Peshmerga militia and Free Syrian Arab fighters as evidence that the anti-ISIS strategy is working. Carter said the ability of the Kurds and Arab forces to take nearly a dozen northern Syrian towns from ISIS, supported by extensive coalition air strikes, “demonstrates again that where we have a credible local force on the ground” the air support can result in progress. “We know success against ISIL requires credible local forces,” the Secretary said. “Putting more US forces on the ground would not be helpful.” That view was supported by Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, who said the only way to ensure a lasting defeat of ISIS was to have capable local ground forces. But, committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican presidential candidate, said: “Anybody who thinks the Kurds are the answer … doesn’t understand the Middle East.”
As the U.S. continues to pursue a diplomatic resolution with Russia over its troop buildup on the Ukraine border, the Defense Department is looking into what capabilities it will need to reassure NATO allies if Russia does launch an invasion, its top spokesperson said Jan. 21.