The US military's top officer has called for "strategic patience" in the fight against "Islamic State." Iraq wants the international community to use its air power to prevent the militants destroying priceless artifacts.
General Martin Dempsey on Sunday warned against stepping up bombing raids on "Islamic State" (IS) militants or deploying more American troops to Iraq.
During a visit to a French aircraft carrier in the northern Persian Gulf, Dempsey said such steps would be mistakes that could risk civilian casualties and play into the hands of IS propaganda.
"Carpet bombing through Iraq is not the answer," Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said alongside his French counterpart, General Pierre de Villiers, aboard the Charles de Gaulle.
"We have a responsibility to be very precise in the use of air power. And that means that it takes time," he said, adding that IS fighters had adapted since the US-led bombing began in Iraq in August.
"This is not an enemy that is sitting around in the open desert waiting for me to come find it," Dempsey said. "They did some of that in the beginning and paid the price. So the enemy has adapted and they have developed tactics and techniques that make them a little more difficult to find."
A US-led international coalition, made up of Western and Arab states, launched airstrikes against IS after the group's rapid seizure of territory in Iraq and Syria last summer. Since then, the extremists have become known for their brutal tactics - including kidnappings, mass killings, beheadings and the destruction of priceless historical artifacts.
France has provided air support to the coalition's operations against IS in Iraq since mid-September. The de Gaulle was deployed to the Persian Gulf on February 23. Up to 15 warplanes from the carrier conduct combat missions over Iraq every day, French officials said.
Cultural heritage under attack
Earlier Sunday, Iraq called for the international coalition to use its air power to help protect the country's archaeological sites from IS militants, who have so far destroyed priceless artifacts in Nimrud, Mosul, Hatra and Khorsabad.
"We request aerial support," said Iraq's tourism and antiquities minister, Adel Fahad al-Shershab. "The international community's slow action for protecting the Iraqi antiquities has sent a message, which has encouraged terrorists to commit more crimes."
During the course of the operation against IS, Washington has faced criticism from its Arab allies for being overly cautious in carrying out airstrikes. Speaking aboard the de Gaulle, Dempsey defended the pace of the military campaign, saying bombing was only part of the strategy and that much depended on the strength of the Iraqi army and the Iraqi government's efforts to include disaffected Sunnis.
"I do think it's going to require some strategic patience," he said.
"We've got trainers and advisers that are waiting for some of the Iraqi units to show up. And when they've shown up, a handful of them, they've shown up under strength and sometimes without the proper equipment. The Iraqi government can actually fix that themselves."
General de Villiers said the US-led coalition faced a paradox because there was a desire for "quick results," but the Iraqi army had to be rebuilt before it could take back territory from the extremists.
Dempsey is expected to travel next to Iraq to discuss the campaign with government leaders and US military officials.
nm/cmk (AFP, AP)