MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., MARCH 13, 2015 — Although it will take time, the strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is working, and the military campaign against the terrorist group is having the desired effects.
That was among the messages delivered Thursday by Rear Adm. Jim Malloy, deputy director of operations for U.S. Central Command, in a speech to the Tampa chapter of the Military Officers Association of America, or MOAA.
The effort to defeat ISIL "is tailorable and scalable and is being applied in different ways and along different timelines in Iraq, Syria and the region," Malloy said. "It will take some time, (but) our strategy is collaborative, and we are leveraging the support and skill of partners and allies."
The anti-ISIL coalition of more than 60 countries "represents the strength and cohesion of this particular campaign," the admiral said. In efforts in Syria against ISIL, the active and public involvement of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar "has catalyzed the fight and sends a clear message to ISIL that the region rejects their brutal violence and intolerance," he added.
In efforts in Iraq, a number of countries are contributing to advise-and-assist missions to help local forces build their combat effectiveness. Also, countries including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States have conducted more than 2,800 airstrikes in support of the ground activity of Iraqi security forces.
Iraqi Army and Counter-Terrorism Services forces, Kurdish Peshmerga and tribal elements have worked to halt ISIL's advance in Iraq, Malloy said. "The enemy is now in a defensive crouch in Iraq and is unable to conduct major operations and seize additional territory."
In three recent instances, local forces in Iraq either defeated an ISIL attack or took back ground from the terrorist group.
Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve said in a March 13 news release that Iraqi forces on March 11 were simultaneously attacked with small arms fire, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and indirect fire at several locations in Ramadi and surrounding areas in the Anbar region. Iraqi air and ground forces, supported by CJTF-OIR, successfully responded to the attacks and allowed ISIL to gain no ground. Iraqi forces continued to hold all friendly positions after the attacks that they had held prior to them.
In a March 12 news release, CJTF-OIR said that during a one-day operation March 9 Peshmerga fighters, supported by CJTF-OIR airstrikes, seized a key ridgeline near Kirkuk in northern Iraq. The Peshmerga forces pushed back ISIL 2-3 miles over a wide front, liberating about 30 square miles from ISIL control.
In late February and early March, Iraqi security forces and tribal fighters from the Anbar region, supported by CJTF-OIR airstrikes and intelligence assistance, cleared the Iraqi city of Baghdadi of ISIL terrorists. Local forces re-took the city's police station and three Euphrates River bridges, which had been held by ISIL since September, and pushed ISIL out of seven villages near Baghdadi.
Looking ahead, Malloy warned that while momentum has shifted in favor of the coalition against ISIL, there will be setbacks. "The enemy is resilient and adaptable and will not go away easy. But we are adaptable too, and we are watching closely as this group begins to lose on numerous fronts," he added.
In addition to discussing the campaign against ISIL, Malloy also addressed CENTCOM's broader mission and what it does across the 20 countries within its area of responsibility. He cited the command's focus on U.S. vital interests in the region, including the free flow of resources through key shipping lanes, such as the Strait of Hormuz; defending the homeland against the threat of terrorism and extremism; and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
"The past reminds us that when our region experiences any degree of strife and bloodshed or increased stability, countries there and around the world feel the effects," the admiral said, and those effects become "amplified as the world becomes more connected."
Finally, Malloy recognized the work of MOAA and other service organizations like it. "Thank you for your support for our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines" and your continued interest in what we do, he said.