WASHINGTON, May 19, 2015 - Iraqi security forces and coalition partners will retake the Iraqi city of Ramadi, now "largely under control" of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant extremists since Sunday, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters Monday.
The colonel said it's important to not over interpret ISIL's gain in a single city when Iraqi forces are engaged in offensive operations across the "breadth and depth" of a large nation.
"To read too much into this is a mistake," Warren said. "This is one fight, one episode, in which Iraqi Security Forces were not able to prevail -- today."
While ISIL was able to gain the upper hand in Ramadi, "what this means for our strategy is simply that we -- the coalition and Iraqi partners -- now have to go back and retake Ramadi," Warren said.
Defense Department officials have always said there would be ebbs and flows in Iraq's fight against ISIL, he said, adding that "it's a difficult, complex, bloody fight, and there will be victories and setbacks."
Iraq and coalition forces will retake Ramadi, Warren said, "in the same way we are slowly but surely retaking others parts of Iraq with Iraqi ground forces, combined with coalition air power."
While noting that it is too soon to determine how ISIL gained control over Ramadi Sunday, ISIL forces apparently generated enough combat power to cause Iraqi security forces to reposition out of Ramadi, he said.
"Ramadi is an urban environment, one of the toughest to fight in," Warren said. "It is an environment that limits the ability of air power, so that creates unique challenges."
Because the ISF have cleared areas of ISIL forces, he noted that Iraq's capabilities are "slowly but surely" improving.
Some 7,000 ISF members are trained and another 3,000 to 4,000 are in the training pipeline, which will make a difference, the colonel said.
The strategy to defeat ISIL is working, Warren said.
He added, "We believe the Iraqi Security forces, along with coalition air power, will defeat ISIL."