US forces have reinforced the American embassy in Baghdad and have secured key logistics nodes and areas of the Baghdad International Airport in order to “preserve options” for the future, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Thursday. Speaking with reporters at the Pentagon, the officials said DOD has determined that the initial drive by the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL) is “stretched right now to control what they have gained” after initial advances. “The actions we have taken fall into two bins, Dempsey said—protecting US personnel and facilities, and allowing the assessment of future options. This includes securing US facilities connected to the embassy and the airport for use for logistics, and if needed, evacuation. A stable Iraq that can, and should, be a partner in counter terrorism activity is in the interest of the US, he added. However, in addition to determining the strength and needs of the Iraqi military, the US must also be convinced it is working with a “reliable partner,” Dempsey added. “If the answer is ‘no,’ then the future is pretty bleak,” Dempsey bluntly declared. (See also Pentagon Dispatches Reinforcements to Baghdad.)
These are the complete remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the Reagan National Defense Forum, Dec. 3, 2022, in Simi Valley, Calif.