Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified to the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the United States and its coalition partners have not contained the Islamic State.
Dunford, who testified alongside Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, made the statement while being questioned by Rep. Randy Forbes (R., Va.) during a hearing titled “U.S. Strategy for Syria and Iraq and Its Implications for the Region,” which largely focused on the ongoing effort to counter the Islamic State.
Forbes directly asked Dunford if “we have currently contained ISIL [the Islamic State],” to which the general responded, “We have not contained ISIL.”
Forbes pressed further, asking whether the Islamic State has been contained at any point since 2010. Dunford answered, “Tactically, in areas they have been. Strategically, they have spread since 2010.”
The core of the Islamic State is based in Iraq and Syria, where U.S.-led coalition efforts are focused, but the group has spread to several countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, with local groups pledging allegiance to the Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Dunford’s assessment at the congressional hearing Tuesday appears to contradict President Obama’s statement in an interview from November 12 that Islamic State had been “contained,” which came one day before the jihadist group carried out coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, killing 130 people and wounding hundreds more.
In the wake of the Paris attacks, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and commentators called on the president to change his strategy to counter the Islamic State and take a more aggressive posture.
Obama vigorously defended his policy, though, saying that it is rolling back the jihadist group but it will be a lengthy process.
Dunford and Carter each said during Tuesday’s hearing that the U.S. has recently made several “adaptations” that are having positive effects on the ground in fighting Islamic State, but they also claimed more still needs to be done.