(CNSNews.com) - Lt.-General James Terry, commander of the 40-nation coalition that is fighting ISIS/ISIL, on Thursday hailed the "tremendous strength" of that coalition, which is about to get another 1,500 American troops.
He also recognized the enemy's "capability" and resilience, and he said it probably would take at least three years to build "some of the capabilities that are required" for the Iraqis to defeat the enemy.
"As you know, we have been authorized an additional 1,500 U.S. personnel," Terry told a Pentagon briefing. "They will serve in noncombat roles to support additional advise-and-assist requirements, and the building capacity partner effort."
Terry said the 1,500 U.S. troops will start "flowing in" in a couple of weeks: "But what -- what you need to understand is we're not -- we're not waiting on those 1,500."
Terry said the U.S. troops that already are in Iraq -- around 1,700 of them, the Associated Press reported -- are "starting to move forward and have moved forward in many cases to make sure that we are preparing the -- the sites out there. We've got the ... legislation moving through that gives us authorities to train. And we want to be ready, and I -- we certainly will be, as the Iraqis now start to designate in a deliberate way which units now will go to those partner capacity sites..."
Terry said he expects other members of the 40-nation coalition to produce "at least an additional 1,500 personnel."
Ultimately, the coalition will defeat Daesh, Terry said, using the insulting Arabic name for ISIL. But he also stressed the need to be patient.
"I would just tell you, I think we're in, you know, some patience in relationship to turning Daesh. They have proved to be resilient. And again, as I look at it from a military standpoint, you know, the first -- the first strikes were, what, 8 August? And so this is December. What's that? Four months."
Terry said the coalition has made "significant progress," following 1,361 air strikes, in halting ISIL's advance and its ability to acquire territory: "I think what we must do, especially inside of Iraq, is continue to build those capabilities. I think you're at least talking a minimum of three years.
"Now, that -- that doesn't mean we haven't started turning Daesh in a certain direction. And that's going to be the power of the coalition. Not only from a military perspective, but how do you apply all those elements of -- of national power, along from the different nations, along those lines of effort that have been laid out out there.
"So I hesitate to give you a time, but I'll show up in six months and you'll ask me why we haven't gotten there. I think a lot of it, I see the conditions for it right now being set for a pretty stable environment, but I still think we're, in terms of building some of the capabilities that are required there, probably about three years down the road minimum."
Three years ago, President Obama announced he was removing the last of the U.S. troops left in Iraq: "After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over," he said in October 2011.
Then this past June, as the ISIL threat became apparent, Obama announced he was sending "a small number" of American military advisers -- "up to 300 -- to assess how we can best train, advise, and support Iraqi security forces going forward."
That 300 number kept growing, and by September, more than a thousand U.S. troops were in Iraq to "advise and assist."
In November, three days after the midterm election, President Obama authorized the deployment of another 1,500 troops to Iraq, bringing the total to more than 3,000. Those 1,500 will start deploying in a few weeks, as Lt.-Gen. Terry said.