US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Martin Dempsey faced questioning today about the extent of the US military's role in fighting Islamic State - the terrorist organisation formerly known as Isis and Isil. But the hearing was interrupted by peace protesters.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) greets members of the Senate Armed Services Committee before the hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC. Senators were to question Hagel and Dempsey about the threat posed by the Islamic State. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Hagel and Dempsey (C) greet committee chairman Senator Carl Levin (R). Levin - a former civil rights lawyer - was an opponent of America's involvement in the Iraq War. But in recent years, his stance has hardened, and he supported the increase in US troops in Iraq, and co-authored a bill, with republican John McCain, to authorise the indefinite detention of US citizens suspected of involvement with terrorists. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Before Hagel could begin testifying, there were protests from the activist NGO 'Code Pink: Women for Peace'. Founded by Jodie Evans and Medea Benjamin, Code Pink is a pacifist organisation, whose membership mainly consists of women. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Code Pink members have previously protested at a US House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. Ten silent protesters waved their red-stained hands behind officials who were arguing for American military intervention in Syria. The protesters also wore signs asking for the US to use diplomacy instead of force. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images At the start of the hearing, the protesters reportedly shouted "No more war! The American public does not want war! We do not want war! No military solution to this! No more war! No more war! No military solution!" before being removed from the room by security. The disruption was short-lived. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images During the hearing, Hagel and Dempsey explained that US troops would be limited to advisory roles, helping Iraqi forces with logistics, planning and co-ordinating military actions with the newly-formed coalition against the Islamic State. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images Despite President Obama's reassurance that the US military involvement would not involve 'boots on the ground', Dempsey said that it was a possibility: "To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific Isil targets, I will recommend that to the president," Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committees. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Hagel made it clear that the White House doesn't see the battle with Islamic State as a easy one: "We are at war with Isil, as we are with al-Qaida," Hagel said. "But destroying Isil will require more than military efforts alone. It will require political progress in the region, and effective partners on the ground in Iraq and Syria." Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images