WASHINGTON, July 27, 2015 - Iraqi security forces are making progress on multiple axes in their battle to retake the city of Ramadi from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant control, a U.S. Central Command spokesman said Friday.
Speaking to Pentagon reporters via teleconference, Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder provided an overall update in operations against ISIL in the combatant command's area of responsibility.
"[Iraqi forces are] in the process of isolating Ramadi to conduct a deliberate clearing operation to retake the provincial capital city," he said.
Since the July 12 start of the Ramadi counterattack, coalition forces have conducted 76 airstrikes, targeting enemy positions, fighters, equipment, command and control modes, vehicle borne improvised explosive device and weapons caches, he said.
ISIL is trying to hold onto Ramadi by using vehicle bombs, suicide bombers and other tactics designed to slow Iraqi forces' movement, Ryder said. "They're continuing to rely on propaganda to mitigate their losses and overstate operational performance," he added.
While it's still early in what's expected to be a long fight against ISIL extremists, the colonel said, CENTCOM officials are encouraged by the well-developed and comprehensive plan the Iraqis have put together and executed.
"They continue to liberate their territory, and coalition forces will continue its support to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL," Ryder said.
Iraq's recent purchase of U.S. F-16 fighters has assisted in the fight against ISIL, said the CENTCOM spokesman. Sharing a platform that many NATO allies also have enhances interoperability gives Iraqi forces the ability to conduct operations with coalition forces, he added.
CENTCOM has assessed that the majority of the town of Beiji is under Iraqi control, although its oil refinery remains contested, the colonel said. Further north, he told reporters, there has been little change as Iraq's Kurdish forces hold their defensive lines from Sinjar to the north side of Mosul and down to the north of Kirkuk against ISIL's "harassing attacks," most of which have been between Sinjar and Mosul.
Coalition aircraft have conducted 16 "dynamic airstrikes" since July 12 in the area around Mosul, targeting enemy personnel, weapons and equipment, he added.
Across Iraq and Syria in the fight against ISIL, coalition forces have continued to degrade the extremist organization's capabilities, Ryder said.
"We've removed hundreds more fighters from the battlefield, including numerous ISIL leaders and facilitators," Ryder said. "This inevitably reduces the organization's effectiveness and forces them to make tough choices to how and where to apply resources."