Top military chief voices concerns about fight against IS

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Top military chief voices concerns about fight against IS
Democrats Tuesday furiously denounced Republican lawmakers' letter to Iran that warned any nuclear deal cut with President Barack Obama could expire the day he walks out of the Oval Office. (March 10)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) talks with US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter prior to testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, DC, March 11, 2015. Kerry urged lawmakers Wednesday to give President Barack Obama updated war powers to go after Islamic jihadists at 'a pivotal hour' in the battle against the militants. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
From left, Joint Chief Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, and Secretary of State John Kerry, arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 11, 2015, to testify before the Senate Foreign Relation Committee. Three of America's top national security officials face questions on Capitol Hill about new war powers being drafted to fight Islamic State militants, Iran's sphere of influence and hotspots across the Mideast. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Vice President Joe Biden listens at left as President Barack Obama speaks about the Islamic State group, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Obama asked the U.S. Congress on Wednesday to authorize military force to "degrade and defeat" Islamic State forces in the Middle East without sustained, large-scale U.S. ground combat operations, setting lawmakers on a path toward their first war powers vote in 13 years. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2015 file photo, Vice President Joe Biden listens as President Barack Obama speaks about the Islamic State group, Wednesday, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. White House officials say President Barack Obama is open to negotiating with Congress on many elements of his request for war powers against the Islamic State group, including his proposed three-year time limit on U.S. military action and the use of American troops. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
Secretary of State John Kerry, right, accompanied by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, center, and Joint Chief Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 11, 2015, before the Senate Foreign Relation Committee. America's top national security officials face questions on Capitol Hill about new war powers being drafted to fight Islamic State militants, Iran's sphere of influence and hotspots across the Mideast. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
John and Diane Foley talk to reporters after speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 outside their home in Rochester, N.H. Their son, James Foley was abducted in November 2012 while covering the Syrian conflict. Islamic militants posted a video showing his murder on Tuesday and said they killed him because the U.S. had launched airstrikes in northern Iraq. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Iraqi pro-government fighters celebrate as they advance into Tikrit, 160 kms north of Baghdad, during a military operation to regain the city from jihadists from the Islamic state (IS) group, on March 11, 2015. Iraqi forces entered a northern neighbourhood of Tikrit, marking a new stage in the operation launched 10 days ago to wrest the city back from jihadists, army officers said . AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces take part in a military operation to retake control of Tikrit, 160 kms north of Baghdad, from jihadists from the Islamic state (IS) group, on March 11, 2015. Iraqi forces entered a northern neighbourhood of Tikrit, marking a new stage in the operation launched 10 days ago to wrest the city back from jihadists, army officers said. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on March 11, 2014 shows smoke billowing after the building of the Anbar Governorate was hit by a mortar shell in the Hosh district of Ramadi as the Islamic State jihadist group launched a coordinated attack on government-held areas of the western Iraqi city, involving seven almost simultaneous suicide car bombs, police said. At least 10 people were killed and 30 wounded in the attack, according to initial reports by police and hospital sources in the city, capital of Anbar province. AFP PHOTO / AZHAR SHALLAL (Photo credit should read AZHAR SHALLAL/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi fighters of the government-controlled Popular Mobilisation advance into Tikrit, 160 kms north of Baghdad, to regain the city from jihadists from the Islamic state (IS) group, on March 11, 2015. Iraqi forces entered a northern neighbourhood of Tikrit, marking a new stage in the operation launched 10 days ago to wrest the city back from jihadists, army officers said . AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces take part in a military operation to retake control of Tikrit, 160 kms north of Baghdad, from jihadists from the Islamic state (IS) group, on March 11 2015. Iraqi forces entered a northern neighbourhood of Tikrit, marking a new stage in the operation launched 10 days ago to wrest the city back from jihadists, army officers said. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, walks through a corridor at the Capitol after a closed-door meeting on President Barack Obama's request for Congress to authorize military action against terrorists who are cutting a swath across the Middle East, in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015. At the heart of the debate, the struggle to define any role for American ground forces is likely to determine the outcome of the administration's request for legislation. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Vice President Joe Biden listens at left as President Barack Obama speaks about the Islamic State group, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Obama asked the U.S. Congress on Wednesday to authorize military force to "degrade and defeat" Islamic State forces in the Middle East without sustained, large-scale U.S. ground combat operations, setting lawmakers on a path toward their first war powers vote in 13 years. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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WASHINGTON (AP) - America's top military officer says that while Iran's support in the fight against Islamic State militants is helpful, the U.S. remains concerned about what happens "after the drums stop beating" and IS is defeated.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that anything anyone does to counter IS is a "positive thing." But he said there is concern about whether Iran-backed militamen, who are Shia, will turn against Sunni Iraqis, further destabilizing Iraq.

"We are all concerned about what happens after the drums stop beating and ISIL is defeated, and whether the government of Iraq will remain on a path to provide an inclusive government for all of the various groups within it," Dempsey said, using an acronym for the militant group. "We're very concerned about that."

"What we are watching carefully is whether the militias - they call themselves the Popular Mobilization Forces - whether, when they recapture lost territory, whether they engage in acts of retribution and ethnic cleansing," he said. "There's no indication that that is a widespread event at this point, but we're watching closely."

Dempsey joined Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ash Carter in testifying at a hearing about President Barack Obama's proposal for new war powers to fight IS. The debate comes amid Democratic worries that it could lead to a full-scale U.S. ground war in the Mideast and GOP concerns that it should not ties the hands of the commander in chief.

The legislation, debated in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, will set up the first war vote in Congress in 13 years.

Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said he hopes the hearing will help start a process where both parties can reach agreement on a new authorization to fight IS militants, who have seized territory across Iraq and Syria. Obama sent his draft to Capitol Hill last month.

"As we have received that authorization for the use of military force, what we have come to understand is that - and this is not a pejorative statement, it's an observation - we don't know of a single Democrat in Congress, in the United States Senate, anyway, that supports that authorization for the use of military force," Corker said.

Obama's proposal would allow the use of military force against IS for three years, unbounded by national borders. The fight could be extended to any "closely related successor entity" to the IS, which has overrun parts of Iraq and Syria. He ruled out large-scale U.S. ground combat operations reminiscent of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Republicans expressed unhappiness that Obama had chosen to exclude any long-term commitment of ground forces, while some Democrats voiced dismay that he had opened the door to any deployment whatsoever.

The 2002 congressional authorization that preceded the American-led invasion of Iraq would be repealed under the White House proposal, a step some Republicans were unhappy to see. But a separate authorization approved by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks would remain in force, to the consternation of some Democrats.

The struggle to define any role for American ground forces is likely to determine the outcome of the administration's request for legislation. The White House has said that the proposal was intentionally ambiguous on that point to give the president flexibility, although the approach also was an attempt to bridge a deep divide in Congress.

During Kerry's testimony, an anti-war protester from the Code Pink shouted: "We're tired of the endless war ... the killing of innocent people." Corker called for order. Kerry responded, asking, "Killing more innocent people? I wonder how our journalists who were beheaded and the (Jordanian) pilot, who was fighting for freedom, who was burned alive - what they would have to say to their efforts to protect innocent people?"

Corker noted that the United States has signed on to train and equip forces to fight IS, yet once they are fielded, they will be subject to barrel bombs dropped by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. Corker said the president's proposed authorization would allow ways to protect the forces.

"I don't think we've made those decisions yet. And I think ... that shows is potentially a lack of commitment, if you will, to really deal with ISIS in a more significant way," Corker said.

Dempsey said the U.S. has undergone two rounds of talks with Turkish officials about a possible air-exclusion zone in Aleppo, Syria, that would provide overflight to protect the troops. "We are continuing to develop that option should it be asked for," Dempsey said.



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