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News | April 27, 2015

ISIL on defensive in Iraq, CENTCOM spokesman says

WASHINGTON, April 27, 2015 - U.S. Central Command officials believe the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorist group is on the defensive in Iraq, CENTCOM spokesman Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder told reporters here Friday.

In the second operational teleconference update on Operation Inherent Resolve in a week, Ryder said ISIL is no longer seizing large swaths of Iraq territory.

"While initial reports may sometimes give the impression [ISIL is on the offensive], we see no evidence that they're able to do so," he said.

Ryder said ISIL likely will conduct "limited scope attacks" to disrupt Iraqi security forces and hold onto territory, where possible, for propaganda purposes.

"Recent events in Beiji and other areas have demonstrated that a key tactic employed by ISIL continues to be the use of propaganda to amplify and portray their actions as more effective and larger in scope than they actually are," Ryder said.

Recent ISIL-sourced images and video depict alleged terrorist successes, which are meant to lend the extremists legitimacy and instill fear and doubt in the population -- in addition to boosting their fighters' morale, he said.

Since last week, Iraqi forces with coalition support have gained control of Beiji's oil refinery, the spokesman said.

"They're now conducting clearing operations and successfully repelling ISIL's attempts to [re-]gain control of the refinery," Ryder said.

Control of Ramadi remains contested as "ISIL attempts to consolidate and defend the territory they regained in portions of eastern Ramadi," Ryder said.

Even though ISIL has conducted a few attacks in Ramadi this week, Iraqi forces have quickly responded and continue to make progress there, he noted.

"Iraqi counterterrorism service and federal police have been focused on clearing northern Ramadi, and in the last few days have brought in reinforcements to help support these efforts," Ryder said.

CENTCOM's commander, Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, recently traveled to Iraq and met with the country's key leaders, the spokesman said.

"In each of the discussions on the military campaign and recent operations in Beiji and Ramadi, [Austin] emphasized the importance of quickly gaining and maintaining support of all Iraqi people -- Shiite, Sunnis and Kurds," Ryder said.

Ryder said Austin also re-emphasized how the conflict in Iraq will not be solved through a military basis, but will require a diplomatic or political solution above and beyond the efforts to defeat ISIL. Austin's visit to Iraq was "very productive," spokesman added.

Coalition forces have conducted more than 1,400 airstrikes against ISIL in Syria, Ryder said.

Those airstrikes have degraded ISIL's ability "to amass forces, sustain and finance themselves to command and control their forces," the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, he added, the Kurds in northern Syria, such as Kobani, continue to push ISIL back.

"When you look across the entire battlespace and look at where ISIL was last summer and look at where ISIL is today, [they] continue to be on the defensive in Iraq and they're losing territory," Ryder said.