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​Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, shown here, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, briefed the press on efforts underway to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant at the Pentagon on Aug. 21, 2014. Screen shot of Defense Department video.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists rampaging through Iraq and Syria are “an imminent threat” to the United States and it will require a prolonged struggle to defeat them. The US-led airstrikes in northern Iraq have “stalled” ISIL’s advance and allowed the Iraqi and Kurdish forces “to regain the initiative” and retake the crucial Mosul Dam, said Hagel during a press conference with Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin Dempsey on Thursday. However, Hagel repeatedly said ISIL will not be beaten by airstrikes alone. Dempsey said the effect of the 298 “targeted airstrikes” shows that “it is possible to contain them,” but “not in perpetuity.” Both of the defense leaders stressed that defeating ISIL in Iraq requires a unifying government in Baghdad that the Iraqi Sunnis and Kurds will support. ISIL is predominately Sunni and gained ground rapidly in Sunni-dominated areas because the Iraqis there would not support the primarily Shia Iraqi Army. Asked if defeating ISIL would require US strikes against their bases in Syria, Hagel said the Pentagon would continue its current limited missions, but would “consider all options.” But Dempsey acknowledged it couldn’t be done with addressing Syria.