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News | April 17, 2015

Trends in Iraq moving in right direction, hard work remains, general says

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2015 - The Iraqi government has made gains, and trends there are moving in the right direction, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at a Pentagon news conference Thursday.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey met with reporters alongside Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Hard work remains to be done to integrate Iraq's militias under state command and control as Iraq continues to prepare its forces to sustain momentum against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the general said.

Iraq's efforts during the Tikrit offensive are a good step, the chairman said, adding that the United States will continue consulting with Iraq's leadership as it plans and conducts operations. Dempsey also noted that Iraq has help in its fight against ISIL.

"I'm encouraged by the commitment of the coalition," Dempsey said. "There's been an addition of 300 Australian troops and 100 New Zealand troops to the training mission, and that will certainly contribute to the outcomes we all seek."

Those forces join the international partnership capacity mission, which includes the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United States, he added.

The chairman briefly outlined the military offensive going north of Baghdad through Diyala and into Tikrit, Beiji, and eventually up near Kirkuk from Anbar province.

"The offensive north of Baghdad has been deliberate, measured, steady progress," he said. "Al Anbar has always been pockets of Iraqi security forces and pockets of ISIL. [The] latest attack on Ramadi is yet another indication that what the government of Iraq needs to do is connect these ink blots ... of their legitimate security forces, so that there isn't this constant back and forth."

Beiji, part of the Iraqi oil infrastructure, remains a contested area, the chairman said. "[But] when the Iraqis have full control of Beiji," he added, "they will control all of their oil infrastructure, both north and south, and deny ISIL the ability to generate revenue through oil."

The ISIL threat to the refinery is serious, Dempsey said, because the extremist group penetrated the outer perimeter.

"It's an extraordinarily large expanse of facility," he said. "The refinery itself is at no risk right now, and we're focusing a lot of our [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] and air support there."

Overall, the chairman said, the security environment in Iraq remains as dynamic as it's ever been. "And we remain focused on ensuring that our troops have the leadership, the training, and the resources to accomplish the tasks we ask of them," he added.