Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh on Thursday clarified the Air Force's role in the fight against ISIS, explaining that the service has neither the mission nor capacity to defeat the Islamist threat alone. At a Pentagon press conference to discuss the “State of the Air Force,” Welsh was asked if there is “too much emphasis” on airpower in the ISIS fight. “The [Defense Department] approach is not to defeat ISIS from the air,” explained Welsh. “The intent is to inhibit ISIS, to attrit ISIS, to slow ISIS down to give a ground force time to be trained, because a ground force will be required,” he said. Welsh went on, explaining that "you don’t dictate end states from the air" in a fight like the one in Iraq and Syria now. "You can’t control territory. You can’t influence people. You can’t maintain lines of control after you’ve established them. That will take a ground force; in this case, a coalition ground force that’s being trained now to try and make that effort and we’ll support them from the air,” he said. Secretary Deborah Lee James, appearing with Welsh, said the Air Force had flown “60 percent of 16,000 sorties” in the fight against Islamists in Syria and Iraq since last fall. (James-Welsh transcript)
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