Iraqi soldiers are "stiffening," he said, especially in and around Baghdad, but on their own are not able to retake large areas of the north and west that fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, seized in recent weeks. Dempsey said ISIL fighters are struggling to keep control of those areas. "They're stretched right now — stretched to control what they've gained and stretched across their logistics lines of communication," he said, at a Pentagon briefing with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
"If you're asking me, will the Iraqis at some point be able to go back on the offensive to recapture the part of Iraq that they've lost, I think that's a really broad campaign quality question. Probably not by themselves," Dempsey said. "Does it mean we would have to provide kinetic support? I'm not suggesting that that's the direction this is headed. But, at any military campaign, you would want to develop multiple access to squeeze ISIL.