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Top US General: Islamic State Fight 'Stalemated'

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on "Counter-ISIL Strategy" on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 7, 2015.

The fight against the Islamic State terror group has become "tactically stalemated," according to the United States' top general.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey told a small group of reporters, including VOA, Wednesday in Berlin that challenges on both sides recently have prevented the Islamic militants and the coalition members fighting against them from making any dramatic gains.

The coalition has intercepted Islamic State supply chains, struck the group's command and control, and pressured the militants from multiple directions.

The general said the Iraqi military has undergone leadership changes and logistics challenges, however, as the Iraqi government has squabbled internally.

"This is all about them [the Iraqis] getting their house in order and preparing for a push," he said.

Problem spots

The city of Baiji, a major oil city on the road to Mosul, has been hotly contested by Iraqi forces and IS militants for months.

In May, Iraqi security forces fled from Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, when Islamic State fighters surged in. Iraqi security forces have since moved in near Ramadi in an effort to isolate the IS-controlled town.

Chairman Dempsey said that the leaders who withdrew from Ramadi have "been replaced" and the weapons needed by Iraqis are available in warehouses, waiting for leaders who can help move them from place to place.

He reiterated the Pentagon's view that the Iraqi military is not moving too slowly against the militants, but rather is "moving at a pace it can sustain based on the political environment."

“Iraq will move at the speed of its governance," said Dempsey, "not at the speed of its military capability.

Stalemate not new

The chairman's comments mark the second time in a month a top U.S. military leader has used the term "stalemate" to describe the fight against the Islamic State.

In August, then-chief of the Army, General Ray Odierno told reporters the U.S.-led bombing campaign had helped blunt the offensive by the Islamic State, but warned that "right now we are kind of in a stalemate."

Asked whether the United States should put troops on the ground, Odierno said if the fight in Iraq is not making the kind of progress it needs in the next few months, the United States "should probably absolutely consider embedding some soldiers [with Iraqi forces], then see if that would make a difference."

Dempsey is traveling on the first leg of his last international trip as Joint Chiefs Chairman. He will also visit Turkey and Estonia during the trip to discuss the Islamic State threat on NATO's southern flank and the potential threat of Russian aggression in eastern Europe.