Speed Reads

ISIS

Watch America's top general assess ISIS's strengths and weaknesses

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. has been Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking U.S. military officer, for only about seven weeks, but the fight against the Islamic State has changed even in that short time, he told The Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib at a CEO Council conference on Tuesday. "I assess, and I think most people do, that the rules may have changed in Paris last week," he said, adding that America's "much more energized approach" largely involves trying to persuade NATO members and Gulf Arab Sunnis to step up their efforts.

Seib noted that the attacks on Paris demonstrated ISIS's terrorism capabilities, but now that France and Russia are pushing for a global coalition to beat ISIS on the battlefield, he asked Dunford for his assessment of the self-proclaimed caliphate's military capabilities. The general said he thinks ISIS is "a very sophisticated organization" that has showed its resilience, adaptability, and tactical proficiency. In Paris and, more regularly in Iraq, they have proven to have "fairly capable military forces," Dunford said. "I think it would be a mistake to underestimate them."

ISIS also has "a number of vulnerabilities," he added, including "fairly immature logistics," a reliance on oil and gas for a huge share of their income, and a reliance on foreign fighters. The key weakness in the U.S. coalition is its lack of ground forces, Dunford said, and not all 60 members will commit ground troops. "In terms of other forces on the ground, there hasn't been a great enthusiasm — I mean, honestly, whether it be... in NATO or in the region." He especially wants the Saudis and other Gulf Sunni Arabs to commit ground forces, and he thinks that's a possibility, he said. "I think they would have the credibility and, frankly, come without some of the baggage of Western forces to be on the ground."

"This is one of those campaigns where we're working, like, nine or 10 things simultaneously, looking for opportunities, looking to see what works and then reinforce success," Dunford said. You can watch his full assessment in the video below. Peter Weber