By Terri Moon Cronk
WASHINGTON, May 15, 2015 – The coalition and Iraqi security forces strategy to defeat and dismantle the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant extremist group is clear and on track, the chief of staff of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve said today.
Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Thomas D. Weidley briefed reporters via teleconference from Southwest Asia on Iraq’s battle against ISIL forces.
Beiji and its oil refinery remain contested in a dynamic and fluid battle between Iraqi security forces and ISIL, Weidley said. Since ISIL extremists recently breached the refinery’s perimeter, they have maintained “episodic control of some refinery facilities to continue attacking Iraqi security forces,” he said.
Though ISIL has placed continuous and sometimes significant amounts of pressure at the refinery, he added, Iraqi forces are working continually to improve their position at the refinery and on the route leading to it.
ISIL Gains Not Sustained
In spite of ISIL’s localized attacks, its gains have proved to be short-lived, the general emphasized.
“Since Tikrit’s liberation in early April,” Weidley noted, “the coalition has led 176 airstrikes in Beiji area, destroying numerous fighting positions, mobility platforms, improvised explosive devices, weapons caches, fighters and other military capabilities.”
Since the campaign began its mission to defeat ISIL eight months ago, coalition forces have carried out 330 airstrikes in the Beiji area, he added.
“The coalition support-to-ground forces … [have] been the catalyst for hundreds and hundreds of square kilometers, key cities and infrastructure and critical lines of communication in both Iraq and Syria that have been lost by [ISIL],” Weidley said. “And we believe this will continue.”
Ramadi Remains Contested
After a period of relative stability in the tactical situation in Ramadi, the general said, ISIL executed a complex attack on Iraqi security forces today. While Iraqi forces repel most attacks, he added, ISIL has made some gains, and Ramadi remains contested as the terrorists attempt to consolidate and defend some of their recent, temporary gains east and south of the city.
“Since the beginning of [Operation Inherent Resolve], the coalition has provided precision air support for the [Iraqi forces] with approximately 420 airstrikes in the Fallujah-Ramadi area,” the general said.
Over the last month, he added, the coalition has conducted 165 airstrikes in support of Iraqi security forces in Ramadi that have destroyed operational resources and facilities such as ISIL-controlled buildings, fighting positions, and armored and technical vehicles.
The coalition has conducted 17 engagements in the last three days, he said, and advise-and-assist planners are working closely with the Iraqi security forces to control critical infrastructure and lines of communication.
Weidley said Iraqi forces simultaneously are battling ISIL in four areas in addition to Beiji and Ramadi.
“We firmly believe [ISIL] is on the defensive throughout Iraq and Syria, attempting to hold previous gains, while conducting small-scale, localized harassing attacks [and] occasional complex or high-profile attacks to feed their information and propaganda apparatus,” he said.
The fight is a long-term effort, Weidley said, and the coalition is committed to defeating ISIL in both Iraq and Syria.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)
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