Interview With Sky News

John Allen
Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition To Counter ISIL 
Washington, DC
May 28, 2015

QUESTION: (In progress) the Coalition’s campaign (inaudible) recent loss, say, of Ramadi, and indeed, of Palmyra.

GEN ALLEN: Let me – let me put it in the context of where we’ve come from, I think, to give you a sense of where hopefully we will go. We’re about nine months into the organization of the Coalition. It didn’t exist even this time last year, and we’re coming up on the one-year acknowledgement or the anniversary of the events in northwest Iraq. And in a relatively short period of time, 62 countries and organizations came together ultimately to deal with this threat of Daesh – the Arabic acronym.

In that time, we have seen a significant element within the Coalition contribute military capacity both in terms of air power, trainers, the trainers in the context of building the capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces overall, providing camps and trainers for the train and equip program with respect to Syria. We’ve had elements within the Coalition volunteer and organize to provide for assistance to the liberated populations as the campaign unfolds. That stabilization effort is going to be vital. Other members of the Coalition are going to support the recovery and the employment of the Sunni Iraqi police in the Sunni provinces as they are liberated. That’s a lot of work in the space of nine months.

And the process that is unfolding is that the – a number of Iraqi brigades will be cycling through the building partner capacity sites, ultimately to build the capacity of those forces to – in a comprehensive and well-planned process to take back Iraq, to restore its territorial integrity and the sovereignty.

We learned a lot from Ramadi, and it’s important that we understand the lessons that came out of that particular fight and that we seek to apply the lessons learned to the implementation of the strategy.

QUESTION: And what were those lessons?

GEN ALLEN: Well, the lessons – what’s important, I think, is a lesson in contrast. Just up the road from Ramadi is a place called Al-Asad. And Al-Asad is a base where we have had Coalition troops, Americans and others – the Danes are there, Australians are there – and that process has been underway for several months of training the 7th Iraqi Army Division, training rotational brigades that are going through ultimately to receive the training package of equipment that will accompany the efforts by the Coalition, and very importantly to train the tribes. Where they have been trained and where they have fought, they have been successful. And if you look at the Euphrates from roughly the vicinity of Baghdadi, the town adjacent to Al-Asad, all the way up to Haditha, that ground is under the control of the Iraqis and the tribes and the elements that have come out of Al-Asad.

Ramadi, on the other hand, was a group of Iraqi fighters that had been fighting for 18 months there. They had been under nearly constant pressure by Daesh, had held out for a long period of time. There are some who have compared this to the fall of Mosul. This is not the fall of Mosul. These folks have been fighting hard for 18 months to hold on to that capital. In the end there was a surge of Daesh activity to include attacking several of the points around the perimeter where the Iraqi forces were distributed with some pretty significant suicide VBIEDs, vehicle borne IEDs. And these were measured in the thousands of pounds of yield.

That process created a lot of casualties – casualties among the leaders, casualties among the troops. And as they ultimately withdrew from the city, we have sought to analyze that process, to do the forensics on how better the Iraqis might have organized their command and control, how better we might have supported them in terms of a relief column or ammunition and other essentials for a close-combat environment like that.

QUESTION: But surely with 18 months – I mean, yes, the Coalition is young – but the battle for Ramadi is not new. As you say, they were holding out for 18 months. It must have been obvious to the experts, from the United States of America and others, that these guys were being hung out to dry.

GEN ALLEN: Well, hung out to dry I think is --

QUESTION: Well, they had no logistics, they ran out of ammunition, they were low on food stocks, and they’re 70 miles from Baghdad.

GEN ALLEN: And let’s put – and I think we need to be careful about whether they were intentionally hung out to dry or whether the Iraqis needed the capacity or to – for us to potentially to assist them in building the capacity for the kinds of logistics and support and sustainment that’s necessary. And that’s one of the lessons learned coming out of this campaign, and that is as we seek to make the Iraqis successful in the battlespace, one of the areas where we think we can have a unique ability to contribute to that is not just in building the fighting capacity of those forces that’ll be in contact, but also to help the Iraqis to understand and to organize the logistics and the sustainment that will preclude that sort of thing from happening in the future. It’s part of the lessons learned that we’re embracing as we look at the implementation of the strategy.

QUESTION: Now from the Coalition perspective, there is a ghost member of the Coalition, if you like, and that is Iran. They have troops on the ground. They have their special forces. They have the Iranian-backed militia. How are you going to get around or have you given up bothering too much about essentially provide – the Coalition providing close air support effectively to Iranian troops and Iranian-backed troops.

GEN ALLEN: Well, we don’t coordinate with the Iranians at all in this process.

QUESTION: But you do coordinate with the Iraqis who coordinate with the Iranians, otherwise you’d end up bombing each other.

GEN ALLEN: No, let me – let’s be specific here. It’s important to understand, I think, some distinctions within the term “Shia militias” that is often used without further qualification. There are elements within the group of Shia militias that are the ones that you and I know from our experience previously in Iraq, and those are the ones that are aligned with and take direction and trajectory form the Iranians, from in particular their special operations elements, the Qods force.

But then there’s a very large segment of what are called Shia militias that are volunteers, that came together last year as a direct result of the appeal by the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani that Iraqis should flock to the flag to defend the country. Because in the dire moments of the summer last year as Daesh was pouring down the Euphrates River, the situation was in doubt. And thousands of these young men who were teachers one day and the next day had been issued an AK-47 and were standing in ranks. They flocked to the flag.

What we learned about the battle of Tikrit was that those elements that were aligned with the Iranians ultimately had a very difficult time dealing with Daesh for a variety of reasons. But those elements ultimately that are the volunteer militias, the Popular Mobilization Force, when the prime minister and his military leadership in Iraq asked the Coalition to provide support to the battle of Tikrit, part of the qualification for us providing that support was that those PMF units come under the command and control of the Iraqi higher command. And that, in fact, has happened. It happened there and it has happened since.

And because – to your point exactly – because we wanted to ensure that we knew where – when the ordnance came off the airplanes and landed on the target, we weren’t, in fact, bombing friendlies. That arrangement had been made at the highest levels within the Iraqi higher command, the military command. And the intent overall eventually with Prime Minister Abadi is, as the counteroffensive unfolds, that eventually these volunteer militia forces will all become part of the formal security structure. Now it’s an informal structure, but it’s under the central command of the Iraqis. They’ll become either – they’ll transition into the formal structure or they’re going to go home. And those are the Shia militia elements that did well in conjunction with the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service and some of the federal police elements in Tikrit. And it’ll be those units that we think will provide support ultimately in Anbar as the campaign unfolds there. And the Anbari provincial leadership have expressed themselves as being willing to have those forces be involved in the campaign.

QUESTION: Is it possible, though, in structuring the strategy for the Coalition to detach that from, effectively, the absence certainly from the Western members of a strategy as to what to do about Bashar al-Assad? You’ve got different wars being fought. One of them is against the Islamic State; the other is by Sunni rebels of various types against the Assad regime. What are you going to do in order to reassure, for example, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, that you are not simply implementing some desire for Shia dominance, which is very much a conspiracy theory that they’ve come up with, or that you’ll somehow prefer to see a devil like Bashar al-Assad survive rather than some other elements coming in?

GEN ALLEN: Well, speaking as an American now, as opposed to speaking on behalf of the Coalition, there is no expectation and no intent that Bashar al-Assad be the long-term leader of Syria. The American policy has been very clear that we would like to see the political transition occur in Damascus that delivers new leadership into the central government of Syria, and that that new leadership is not going to include Bashar al-Assad. I believe – I feel very strongly that the members of the Coalition believe, as we do, that the political transition is the ultimate objective that we should have in Syria, and that that political transition will not include Bashar al-Assad.

Where we may differ might be the modalities of that transition, and that is obviously a key point for discussion as time goes on. But our allies within the Coalition – and remembering that the Coalition is focused on Daesh in Syria, not on transitioning Bashar al-Assad – they are unanimous in being willing and understanding and supporting the strategy that ultimately deals with Daesh in Syria, but in doing that creates the conditions conceivably where the political environment, the political-diplomatic track, can deliver us to a point where Bashar al-Assad transitions out of office.

QUESTION: But critical to all of this is going to be the co-option of Sunni tribes both in Syria and in Iraq. If they see a situation in which the Coalition is selective about who it bombs – in other words, it’s only bombing Sunnis in the form of Islamic States inside Syria, it’s not providing close air support to the non-Islamic State elements that are attacking the Assad regime – it looks – and it is, really, from their perspective – a double standard.

GEN ALLEN: Well, we need to recall why and how we are applying ordnance, how we’re bombing in Syria. And that is in conjunction with the authorities that come from Prime Minister Abadi in Iraq requesting through the UN, under Article 51, collective self-defense. So the targets that we are engaging with respect to Daesh in Syria, those are targets that have the direct capability of influencing the situation in Iraq. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that that may not change over time, and we may see ultimately different authorities over time evolve.

QUESTION: Would you like to see that? Would you like to see a no-fly zone, for example?

GEN ALLEN: I don’t think we need one. I think we can accomplish a lot of our objectives without a formal no-fly zone.

QUESTION: But then you’re not going to be able to persuade Syrian tribes who have been very heavily involved in – some of them in trying to fight against Daesh --

GEN ALLEN: I didn’t say we wouldn’t --

QUESTION: -- you’re not going to get them onto your side if you’re not getting – if they’re not getting anything back from this, they’re not getting defense.

GEN ALLEN: And I’m not proposing that eventually we’re not going to bomb in support of them. What I’m – the point has been if it’s about a no-fly zone, that’s an irrelevant issue. It’s about providing the kinds of support that set people up for success. And look at Kobane. Kobane is a perfect example of that. We didn’t need a no-fly zone to support the defenders of Kobane.

And not only did Daesh – we don’t know the numbers, but not only did Daesh probably lose in excess of thousands of individuals who were forced into that fight and thrown daily into the same targets that we were bombing on a regular basis; and not only were the defenders really quite capable in and of themselves of dominating the ground in support – by support from Coalition air; not only have they ultimately secured Kobane, but they’ve secured an enormous amount of territory around Kobane that pushes Daesh and its capabilities far out.

So I think what you see there is without a no-fly zone, but with the active support of the Coalition in support of a credible force that has the capacity not only to defend but to maneuver, that there is the potential for success on the ground there. We have to work that out, and we’re hoping to do that over time.

QUESTION: But ultimately, doesn’t this really boil down to – and there have been, from Congressman Hunter and others, proposals for more troops on the ground, more specialists, more people from your era from Iraq who were very successful with the Awakening program, the specialists who have got the capacity, the contacts to reach out, but also, critically, special forces individuals who can drop bombs with more precision actually embedded in an old-fashioned soldiery way on the ground. Ultimately, there is going to be need for Western troops on the ground, isn’t there?

GEN ALLEN: That was a very interesting end to your question. I don’t agree that there will necessarily be a requirement for maneuver forces on the ground. But we’ve gone a long way at this point in putting forces on the ground that are engaged in advising and assisting, engaging in training, and we have forces in the air that are providing credible fire support to these forces as time passes.

And I’ll just tell you, we – two days ago at a place called Habbaniyah in – along the Euphrates River in Al Anbar, 800 tribesmen arrived to be inducted not by the Americans into the Iraqi Security Forces but to be inducted by Iraqis into the Iraqi Security Forces. I’ve spoken with one of my old friends, a sheikh of the eastern tribes of Fallujah, and the expectations – or not Fallujah, but Anbar near Fallujah, just below Fallujah along the Euphrates – they’re going to be leading their tribesmen to Habbaniyah in very large numbers in the near future.

So the tribes are interested in fighting Daesh. They’re interested in cooperating with the Iraqi Security Forces in Al Anbar. Obviously, the equipping piece is going to be a part of that, an important part of that, and I think we are in train to handle that. But also importantly, when I talk to the sheikhs of these tribes, one of the things that they have said which I didn’t hear previously was that they believe that Prime Minister Abadi is, in fact, committed to supporting the tribes and ultimately supporting the liberation of Al Anbar and the liberation of the Sunni population there from Daesh. That’s an important acknowledgement that we probably would not have seen just a year ago, and that’s an important improvement to the operational environment within which then we can accomplish other things.

QUESTION: But let’s go back and look at what’s happened in the last couple of weeks: Two key strategic points, Palmyra – both culturally important but strategic because of its cultural importance – and Ramadi, both sitting at crossroads, Silk Route cities, vital points on transport and main supply routes. Things are not going well for the Coalition. They’re not going well for the Iraqi Army. Yes, you say there are lessons to be learned. Yes, maybe some more Sunni tribes are signing up to the cause. But Islamic State is consolidating its hold over a bigger and bigger territory.

GEN ALLEN: Again, I would contend that the – that saying it’s not going well for the Coalition just isn’t correct. We do have setbacks, and Ramadi is definitely a setback. There are elements of Iraqi Security Forces that are approaching – Iraqi Security Forces that are approaching Ramadi now. So it’s – again, it’s not like Mosul where it collapsed and it has remained in Daesh’s hands now for well over a year. The Iraqis are going to take Ramadi back.

And those areas where the Coalition – where the capabilities of the Coalition have been brought to bear – al-Assad, again, is a perfect example – we have seen that the Iraqi forces that have benefited from both the training and the fire support that comes from the Coalition, we have seen them be successful. And we’re just in the beginning of this process. Those four camps in which we are going to do the development of the rotational brigades, 12 brigades, those camps are really just starting to produce the kinds of forces we think will have the capabilities and the battle space to be successful.

Meanwhile, though, the tribes are coming forward. They’re seeking to be enlisted into the process. And that receives support not just locally in Al Anbar and Salah ad Din and in Nineveh province, but it’s also received significant support from the central government as well, a central government that is dominated by Shia politicians. And they’ve been very clear on this issue that the whole process of reconciliation, while it can occur at the national level through legislative processes and other political processes at the national level, a big part of reconciliation, and ultimately the repair of the conditions under which Daesh could even flourish, comes from how the Sunnis can liberate themselves, and ultimately the devolution of political power, which the central government evinces is its objective to give more authority to the provinces.

We’ve seen that in Salah ad Din already in the aftermath of Tikrit. We’ve seen a very close conversation occurring between Prime Minister Abadi and Governor al-Rawi in Anbar about giving him more authority ultimately to equip the tribes and ultimately to take back Anbar in conjunction with the Iraqi Security Forces.

So in terms of where we have had success in Iraq, much of that is a direct outcome of the efforts of the Coalition, and it’s just begun. And there is more work to be done and we’re not satisfied with where we are. We know we have more work that can be done, and we are going to undertake it.

Syria, though, is different. There are no Coalition forces there in Palmyra and Tadmur, which was the civilian town. And our hope ultimately is that the same kinds of horrific depredations that Daesh has inflicted on civilian populations before are not similarly inflicted, but we’re already beginning to hear some of the tragedy coming out of that area. And we’re also hoping that in the end, the whole complex of Palmyra survives the presence of Daesh. But there just simply is no Coalition presence there at this particular moment.

So you see that where we are having an effect is where we have contact, and the process ultimately in Syria relies on building capacity within the Syrians who can ultimately take the fight to Daesh. We just have no Syrians in that particular area where we have a relationship with them.

QUESTION: Well, exactly, and this was the catch-22, wasn’t it? You had an Islamic State advance on Assad territory, which the Coalition was not prepared to protect because you would have been providing air support to the Assad regime. Similarly, that would give – if you fail in that regard, it means that they could advance down towards the Jordanian border, either through Syria and indeed through Iraq, and also heading down to Saudi Arabia. Those two Coalition partners are vulnerable to this.

GEN ALLEN: Yeah, and I think the key point here is not that we did not take action because it was a regime issue. And I think we – you’ll find that we have the capacity and probably the intent to take action if Daesh continues both to move either to the west or to the east towards Al Anbar or towards our ally, Jordan or Saudi Arabia.

But there is a different operational environment in Iraq than there is in Syria. In Iraq, we have a partner. In Iraq, there are forces that we are touching. In Iraq, there is an active engagement with Daesh on the ground. Syria is a different environment. And in those areas where we do have elements within the moderate Syrian population where we can touch them or we can support them, or the moderate Syrians who are going through the training and equip program in those camps, it’s going to be a different outcome. But that outcome is going to take some time because we have to build that capacity within the Syrians both to defend themselves and to take the fight to Daesh.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied that countries such as the United Kingdom are making a sufficient contribution to the Coalition? Would you like to see more? I mean, I note with interest that the United Kingdom has fewer aircraft committed to the Coalition than they do to the Red Arrows display team.

GEN ALLEN: That’s an interesting question in that context. I will tell you that the UK was in action in the air just last night in support of the air tasking order, which was engaging targets along with actually six other Coalition partners in the air – yesterday engaging targets off the air tasking order. And in Syria we had three Coalition partners in the air engaging.

There are many ways in which Coalition partners can support, and I think it’s always important to make the case that the military is only one of the five lines of effort in which the Coalition is engaged on any given day. And the UK is displaying – beyond its military contributions, the UK is displaying both involvement and leadership across the board in the other lines of effort as well, which is in the --

QUESTION: Really? I mean, don’t you detect a retreat from the Middle East? I mean, that’s certainly the impression we get in London is that the British Government really would rather wash its hands of all of this mess.

GEN ALLEN: I have no sense of that whatsoever. In dealing both with your political leadership, your diplomatic leadership, and your military leadership, I have no sense of that whatsoever. The sense that we have is an unambiguous commitment to the strategy and an unambiguous commitment to doing all that can be done within the community of nations, of which the United Kingdom and the United States will do their part to deal with the issue of the growth of violent extremism; to deal with the growth of these organizations, of which Daesh is a symptom, and these movements which can destabilize the Middle East over time.

And I think that there is very strong commitment in the capitals of the Coalitions across the board, to include your capital, to dealing with the many underlying circumstances that give rise to organizations like Daesh. In the meantime, Daesh is an emergency, and we’re going to deal with Daesh as a Coalition.

QUESTION: But this goes to the nub of an important debate right across Europe, which is the extent to which the Europeans in general, the British in particular, are still reliable Coalition partners for the United States. Britain has now cut its army. It no longer qualifies to be an army. It’s a one-corps – it’s going to be one-corps sized. Its navy and air force is miniscule in comparison with the United States, for example. And there is a strong sense I pick up from friends in the Pentagon here that whilst the Brits are welcome, they’re no longer a necessary part because they can’t actually punch with any real power anymore.

GEN ALLEN: I don’t agree with that at all. I think the United Kingdom brings far more than just some measurable military power to a Coalition. It brings relationships. It brings history. It brings tradition. It brings capabilities that I think are simply immeasurable in the context of pure numbers of airplanes or a count of troops or platoons. It is much more than simply the sum of military capacity that the United Kingdom brings. And when it brings something, it brings something that makes – that is of consequence and something that is a real contribution.

And so I leave to you and others within the United Kingdom that internal debate about the size of your force or the numbers of the – of your aircraft or the involvement that you may take overseas; but where the United Kingdom has been involved in this Coalition, it’s been an enormously powerful and important involvement.

QUESTION: And what is the purpose of this Paris conference? It’s going to be a very substantial occasion. What message are you bringing as the chief envoy from the United States to that?

GEN ALLEN: Well, this is a – this is an important meeting. It’s been scheduled for some time. We meet periodically at the ministerial level to take stock of our actions within the Coalition and to look for the way ahead to ensure that we are implementing the strategy to the maximum extent that we can. So this meeting was already scheduled. Foreign Minister Fabius will be co-chairing it along with Secretary Kerry, and many of the other members of the – at the ministerial level of the Coalition will be arriving. This is called the Small Group, which is about a 22-member element of the Coalition that represents the entire Coalition in these kinds of discussions. Obviously, the events in Ramadi have given us an opportunity in this meeting to examine the lessons learned not just from a military perspective, but what can we do and what more can be done across all lines of effort. So we’re going to talk about all those lines of effort.

As I said, one of those lines of effort led by Coalition partners is focused very importantly on the business of stabilization operations. As this campaign unfolds in Iraq, there will be large populations that will have been under the boot of Daesh that will be liberated, and their condition is probably going to be horrendous. And so, working very closely with the Iraqis, the stabilization working group led by Germany and the United Arab Emirates have worked with partners within the Coalition and have worked closely with the United Nations, for example, to build the capacity to move quickly with a fund administered through the United Nations to have quick impact on the needs of the populations in terms of the project support to their immediate liberation.

And that’s not an insignificant piece of this, because when the time comes to embrace these liberated populations, primarily Sunni populations – when the time comes to embrace them, and we do that right and they’re taken care of, and their health care is taken care of, and we turn the water back on, the electricity is recharged, and we do some limited reconstruction – that action alone, sponsored by the central government and supported by the Coalition, will go a very long way to create the environment where reconciliation can move forward. So that’s just one example.

There are other elements. The Italians --

QUESTION: But why not just have – true, this is all sweet notions about what happens when you win, but right now you’ve got to win. You’ve got to take the territory back. This --

GEN ALLEN: This is what we’re going to do right now. This is not when we win.

QUESTION: But in the limited areas where you’ve been – retaken territory, such as Tikrit. I understand that. But why are we not seeing Turkey – socking great armed forces; Saudi Arabia – very substantial armed forces – why are they not deploying troops on the ground? Why is their contribution really so limited? Why is this really an American-led effort still? Surely the regional threat that Islamic State pose to the countries neighboring Iraq is far more significant to anything in Washington or the United Kingdom.

GEN ALLEN: Well, you are right; this is an American-led Coalition, but there’s strong leadership being demonstrated by the partners as well. And we have chosen to embrace a strategy where we want to empower and give the capabilities to the indigenous forces ultimately to be the solution, rather than deploy – as, again, I know you understand this – when you deploy large numbers of foreign troops in a country like this that is dealing already with an extremist issue, you may solve the immediate tactical problem, but you have probably made the extremist issue worse.

And so by empowering and creating capacity within the indigenous forces to solve this for themselves – which is, in the end, the goal of the Coalition within the strategy – that gets us to the point where they have solved the problem themselves and we haven’t created a greater problem. And that’s the operating philosophy behind our approach in this.

QUESTION: Are we looking ultimately at the breakup of Iraq and indeed a permanent presence of Islamic State perhaps in a limited part of Syria?

GEN ALLEN: No, I don’t think so. I think under this particular government in Iraq and under the operating philosophy of this particular prime minister, which is one that is based upon the concept of functioning federalism, much of his intention ultimately is a devolution of authority from the central government, where we will see Sunni governors in the liberated provinces given more authority with respect to their own security, given more authority with respect to the revenue sharing which will come from the central government and how they will spend that money. I think that actually strengthens the territorial integrity and the concept of Iraq rather than weakens it, because if we were to see an Iraq fragmented into three distinct entities, I think that is a recipe for much greater instability in the region than not.

And there has been this debate: Is the Sykes-Picot Agreement now long-obsolete? Our intent is to bring the three principal components of Iraq back together again, obviously with Iraqis leading at the political level; support that political process, support the devolution of authority to the governors and to the three principal areas; support Prime Minister Abadi’s sense of functioning federalism. And we think that will create a stronger Iraq.

It also creates the impetus for the Sunnis to oppose Daesh. And frankly, I haven’t yet met someone who has lived under Daesh that enjoyed that experience. And as – there had been moments in the region when there were elements within the Sunni population that saw Daesh as a solution. Well, Daesh has turned out to be an enormous problem – an enormous problem to the region, an enormous problem to individual countries, and an enormous problem to the Sunnis.

And so I think we see in Iraq through Prime Minister Abadi and his capability both at the central governmental level but his willingness to devolve authority to the provinces and his committed support to the Iraqi Security Forces to energize the tribes and to cooperate with the Coalition – I think we see a solution there.

Syria is a different case because we don’t have the kinds of partnerships right now that we need ultimately for the long term --

QUESTION: Admit it, you don’t – there isn’t a strategy for Syria, is there?

GEN ALLEN: Yes there is. The --

QUESTION: Can you explain to me what the strategy from the Coalition’s perspective or Washington’s perspective is to do not just about Islamic State but about the Assad regime?

GEN ALLEN: The strategy of the Coalition is to deal with Daesh. The policy ultimately is to deal with Bashar al-Assad, and that is not a strategy. That is not a component of the strategy with respect to Daesh. But I believe that I can speak with authority that the Coalition partners are unanimous in seeking the political outcome, the diplomatic-political track, which is fostered by the strengthening of the moderate Syrians in the field and the strengthening of the moderate Syrians as a political entity; that they are part of a political-diplomatic process along with other Syrians; that the transition of Bashar al-Assad out of office is to a system of government and a governmental – a head of government that is the desire and ultimately the consensus of the Syrian people.

The strategy with respect to the Coalition as it relates to Daesh is to defeat Daesh in Syria and create the capacity for the moderate Syrians not only to be able to do that, but ultimately to secure their areas in which they’ll operate, which I think will expand over time. As they are successful, we’ll see a substantial migration of Syrians back to the moderate Syrian table as time goes on. That will make them not just a prominent voice in the political-diplomatic process. We hope it’ll make them a preeminent voice in the diplomatic process which fosters the transition of Bashar al-Assad.

The members of the Coalition I think are unanimous in that objective that Bashar al-Assad must go. If there are differences, it is in the modality, probably, of how that process will occur. But there is no absence of consensus within the members of the Coalition – not as a Coalition, but members of the Coalition – on the fact that Bashar al-Assad has to go and that the political outcome be one that is fostered by the Syrian people.

QUESTION: General, thank you very much.

GEN ALLEN: Good to be with you today. Thanks.