Joint Chiefs chairman: ‘We have not contained’ ISIS

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., right, and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter testify before the House Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill Dec. 1, 2015.

(by Christina Wong, The Hill) – The United States has “not contained” the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the nation’s top military officer said Tuesday, contradicting President Obama’s remarks last month about the terror group.

“We have not contained” ISIS, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

The comment runs counter to what the president said days before ISIS launched a string of attacks across Paris.

“I don’t think they’re gaining strength. What is true is that from the start, our goal has been first to contain, and we have contained them,” Obama told ABC News.

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication, later said the president’s remarks applied specifically to Iraq and Syria.

Dunford said ISIS has been “tactically” contained in areas they have been since 2010 but added, “Strategically they have spread since 2010.”

His remarks were in response to questioning by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) on whether ISIS has been contained at any time since 2010.

Dunford added that ISIS posed a threat beyond Iraq and Syria to countries such as Egypt, Nigeria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon and Jordan.

Forbes also got Dunford to disagree with Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who testified alongside him.

Carter had declared during his opening statement that “we’re at war” with ISIS.

Forbes pressed Dunford whether the U.S. was at war with ISIS, and who declared that war.

“We are technically not at war,” Dunford replied.

An academic report released Tuesday said that American support for radical Islamism has reached “unprecedented” levels.

“What we do see in the United States is an unprecedented mobilization” that is “bigger than any other mobilization we have seen since 9/11,” Lorenzo Vidino, the director of George Washington University’s program on extremism, said during an event releasing the report.

The report found that the types of Americans drawn to ISIS vary widely in terms of race, age, education and family background. Yet they are largely all united by their use of social media, which ISIS has been able to master as its reach has grown.

FBI Director James Comey has said that federal officials have launched ISIS-related investigations in all 50 states. …

Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The Hill. Visit the website at thehill .com.


1. a) Define contradict.
b) What is the role of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff?
c) How did Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford contradict President Obama on ISIS? Be specific.

2. How did President Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes attempt to justify the President’s statement about ISIS?

3. What exactly did Gen. Dunford say about the spread of ISIS?

4. What did Secretary of Defense Ash Carter say about ISIS in his opening remarks to the House Armed Services Committee?

5. Ask a parent or grandparent:
a) What do you think President Obama meant when he said ISIS was contained?
b) How do you think the President and Congress should deal with ISIS?


Rep. Randy Forbes is the Chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee and is a leading voice in Congress on defense and national security related issues.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

  • The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) is, by U.S. law, the highest-ranking military officer in the United States Armed Forces and is the principal military advisor to the President of the United States, the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, and the Secretary of Defense.
  • While the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff outranks all other officers, he does not have operational command authority over the Armed Forces; however, the Chairman does assist the President and the Secretary of Defense in exercising their command functions.
  • The Chairman convenes the meetings and coordinates the efforts of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), an advisory body within the Department of Defense comprising the Chairman, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Chief of Staff of the Army, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Chief of the National Guard Bureau.
  • Although the office of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is considered very important and highly prestigious, neither the Chairman, the Vice Chairman, nor the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a body has any command authority over combatant forces.

Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff relationship to Secretary of Defense:

  • The Department of Defense (also known as the Defense Department, DoD or the Pentagon) is the Executive Department of the U.S. government charged with coordinating and supervising all agencies and functions of the government concerned directly with national security and the U.S. armed forces.
  • The Department – headed by the Secretary of Defense – has three subordinate military departments: the U.S. Department of the Army, the U.S. Department of the Navy, and the U.S. Department of the Air Force which oversee the U.S. Army,U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and the U.S. Air Force. In addition, four national intelligence services are subordinate to DOD – the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).
  • The Secretary of Defense is in the chain of command and exercises command and control, subject only to the orders of the President, over all Department of Defense forces (the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps) for both operational and administrative purposes.
  • Because the Office of Secretary of Defense is vested with legal powers which exceeds those of any commissioned officer, and is second only to the President in the military hierarchy, it has sometimes unofficially been referred to as a de facto ”deputy commander-in-chief.”
  • The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the principal military adviser to the Secretary of Defense and the President, and while the Chairman may assist the Secretary and President in their command functions, the Chairman is not in the chain of command.
  • The Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury, are generally regarded as the four most important cabinet officials because of the importance of their departments.
  • The current Secretary of Defense is Ash Carter.
  • The Pentagon building is the headquarters of the Department of Defense, located in Arlington County, Virginia.
  • As a symbol of the U.S. military, “the Pentagon” is often used to refer to the Department of Defense rather than the building itself.
  • Where the Department of Defense is charged with military actions abroad, the Department of Homeland Security works in the civilian sphere to protect the United States within, at, and outside its borders. Its stated goal is to prepare for, prevent, and respond to domestic emergencies, particularly terrorism. (from wikipedia)


In an interview that aired Friday, Nov. 13, ABC’s George Stephanopolous asked President Obama, “But ISIS is gaining strength, aren’t they?” Obama responded, “I don’t think they’re gaining strength….”  ISIS terrorists launched attacks in Paris the same day, murdering over 100 people.  Watch the clip below:

In direct repudiation of President Obama’s comments, on December 1, 2015, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said the United States has not contained the Islamic State terrorist group:

On November 16, 2015, immediately after President Obama spoke at the G20 summit on ISIS and bringing refugees to the U.S., CNN’s Christiane Amanpour gave an assessment of his remarks and how he was “dismissing the notions of American leadership as mere slogans.”  Watch the report below:


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