ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT,
(January 9, 2016) — Iraqi forces have momentum against
the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff said today.
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford
Jr. spoke to reporters following a two-day visit to Iraq. During the visit he
met with U.S. and Iraqi leaders including Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi,
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones and Army Gen. Sean McFarland, the
commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.
Dunford also met U.S., coalition and
Iraqi troops in Baghdad, Asad and Irbil. He last visited the country in
October, just after taking over as chairman.
“I believe the Iraqis now have the
momentum,” the general said. The seizing of Ramadi, the operations that have
been conducted in Anbar province, the recapture and continued control of the
oil refinery in Beiji, and the successful operations cutting ISIL’s main supply
line south of Sinjar make him “comfortable saying the Iraqis have the
The big takeaway from the trip, the
general said, is the psychology of the Iraqis. The general met with senior
Iraqi leaders, but he also met with Iraqi special operators, soldiers in
training, and wounded warriors. The mood is more upbeat across the board, he
They are more confident in their
capabilities. The Iraqi operation in Ramadi, especially, was Iraqi-planned,
Iraqi-resourced and Iraqi-executed. “I felt the Iraqi leadership was pretty
proud of their guys,” Dunford said.
And the Iraqis are continuing with
the battle. Iraqi forces are moving north into Haditha and they are moving to
the east. “They feel it in terms of pressure on ISIL, and they realize they
have to keep moving to provide that pressure,” the general said. “They are kind
of pumped up about it.”
Iraqi, Syrian and coalition forces
have put increasing pressure on Raqqa, Syria, the nominal capital of the
so-called caliphate, and Mosul, Iraq, the largest city captured by the
terrorists, the general said.
Simultaneous, Increasing Pressure
“We have to continue to do things
across all of Iraq and Syria simultaneously,” he said. While coalition forces
are isolating the two important cities, Dunford said, "it’s not Ramadi,
it’s not Mosul, it’s not Raqqa -- it’s all of those and all of it happening at
the same time."
Iraqi forces are becoming more
proficient in a new style of warfare for them. Iraqi leaders have learned the
true power of combined arms and harnessed coalition airpower with their ground
forces, “It’s not just about using aviation and waiting until it’s done,” he
said. “It’s about using aviation as a cover so they can move and fire and
clear. They are better able to integrate effects.”
And Iraqi security forces now have
the success of Ramadi to use in planning further operations. Success breeds
success, the general said. This is important, because as Syrian anti-ISIL
groups move south they are moving into traditionally Sunni Arab lands, Dunford
“I don’t want to overstate this, but
when we went to Anbar, you could see the tribes are much more interested in
talking to our special operations forces,” and momentum builds, he said.
Dunford was not the only American
official to congratulate Iraqi leaders this week. President Barack Obama also
told al-Abadi that the coalition wants to help the Iraqis exploit the success
they are having.
Iraqi military leaders will put together their
plan and present it to McFarland, and his team will look for the best ways to
support the anti-ISIL effort.