WASHINGTON, May 21, 2015 – The loss of Ramadi is a setback, but U.S. Central Command officials are confident Iraqi security forces will take back the city in the near term, a CENTCOM spokesman said Wednesday.
During a conference call with Pentagon reporters, Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder provided an update on current operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the combatant command’s area of responsibility.
“From our perspective,” he said, “what happened at Ramadi was a setback -- certainly concerning, but the fact is it’s a tough fight. As we’ve said before, there’s going to be good days and bad days, and things will continue to ebb and flow.”
“We are confident that the Iraqis, with coalition support, will recover Ramadi,” Ryder said. “We will continue to work closely with the government of Iraq and Iraqi security force leadership as they plan their next move to take back the city.”
Ryder pointed out Iraqi security forces have had success fighting in other areas of the country and said Ramadi is “one piece of a larger fight.”
Looking at the overall situation in Iraq, he said, security forces have achieved some “good effects” in simultaneous operations in Karmah, Tikrit and Baghdadi and while providing security in support of the Kadhimiya pilgrimage.
“In the north, the Peshmerga continue to conduct effective combat operations,” Ryder said. "Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria have done very well, and really represent a hostile force in ISIL’s backyard that has caused them some significant problems there.”
The colonel emphasized he was not minimizing the significance of the setback in Ramadi, nor suggesting it was not important.
“Every square inch of Iraq is important, and liberating every square inch of territory occupied by ISIL is important,” Ryder said. “But again, I’d ask you to look at the bigger picture here. Understand that combat is not always linear, and there will be setbacks, and there will be victories."
With a 60-nation coalition backing the Iraqis as they lead this fight, Ryder said there is confidence that they will retain the momentum against ISIL, and ultimately, defeat them.
Ryder noted 7,000 U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces have graduated and returned to the field -- primarily in the north and the south of Iraq, where they have conducted “effective” operations.
“They have performed as you would expect an army infantry maneuver unit to perform -- exercising good command and control in the field,” he said.
Of note, Ryder said none of those forces were at Ramadi, but “we have seen that the forces that have graduated have done well.”
“We are continuing to work with Iraq to help their forces develop and regenerate their combat capability,” he said, “and so in the days ahead, it will be important for the [Iraqi security forces] to continue to keep pressure on ISIL.”
Through training, the advise-and-assist mission, building partner capacity sites and coalition air power efforts, Ryder said, “we’re confident that we have the right strategy at this time to degrade and defeat ISIL.”