WASHINGTON (Feb. 23, 2016) — Over the past nine months, Iraqi security forces have had
significant successes and have made noticeable progress that will lead to the
eventual defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the commanding general
of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command for Operation Inherent
Resolve said Tuesday.
Army Maj. Gen. Richard D. Clarke,
with responsibilities only in Iraq, briefed Pentagon reporters by video
teleconference from Baghdad.
Clarke said that about 400
paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division have formed the nucleus of the
ground effort in Iraq for more than nine months from their headquarters in
Baghdad. Marines, Air Force, Navy and 20 different coalition nations also are
helping with the mission, with more than 4,100 personnel, he added.
Three Main Missions
When he and members of his division
head back to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in a couple of weeks, the general
said, members of the 101st Airborne will take over three primarily missions: to
train and equip the Iraqi security forces, to provide advice and assistance to
Iraqi forces mainly at leadership levels, and to coordinate airstrikes in
direct support of the Iraqi government.
“The enemy is under simultaneous
pressure here in Iraq as well as in Syria, and what we've seen are great
victories in Sinjar and Ramadi and Beiji,” Clarke said.
In addition to taking back those key
towns, he added, there have been at least three significant attacks by ISIL --
two in Haditha, and one in Mosul in December -- where the enemy put
concentrated forces against Iraqi security forces, who held their ground.
Clarke noted that the Iraqi forces
have not lost any ground since May 19, when Ramadi fell to ISIL.
Iraqi security forces and coalition
airstrikes continue to destroy ISIL fighters, Clarke said.
“For example, in the past two days
we've had horrendous weather here, lots of rain, lots of clouds. Usually that's
an opportunity for [ISIL] to attack,” the general said. “We've seen nothing. [ISIL]
right now is pressurized to prioritize against over-extended resources in
money, equipment and manpower.
In a summary of mission
accomplishments, Clarke said the coalition has trained more than 16,000 Iraqi
security forces and 4,000 Kurdish peshmerga forces. As part of the
train-and-equip mission, he said, the Iraqi fighters receive advanced
equipment, such as Humvees and mine rollers, which helps them defeat ISIL and
boosts their confidence and will.
“Two of the Iraqi army brigades that
we've trained were directly involved in the fight in Ramadi,” the general said.
“That's the 73rd and the 76th brigades. … As I talk to the Iraqi generals,
[they] will say those are the two best Iraqi brigades in their army.”
The coalition has taken on training
for the local and federal police, and Clarke said they have trained more than
2,000 police, with 1,000 more in training right now.
“I want to give a big thanks to Task
Force Carabinieri, who answered the call when we needed trainers back in June
and continue to uptick the amount of trainers and … trainees that they can put
through,” Clarke said. The Italian Carabinieri Corps has a dual role as the
nation’s police and armed forces, according to the organization’s website.
The coalition advises and assists at
multiple levels, the general said, including for the three-star Iraqi Ground
Forces Command at command and joint operations command levels.
Advise and Assist
The coalition also advises five
operations commands, including the Anbar operations command, a corps-level
three-star command that was responsible for Ramadi, Clarke said.
The coalition has advisors in five
Iraqi divisions, and with an army colonel they advise the Combined Joint
Coordination Center in Irbil. Kurds and Iraqis who are beginning future
operations planning man the center, he said.
“Throughout our advise-and-assist
mission … and with the full support of the Iraqi security forces, we show that
this is one fight by one team,” Clarke noted.
ISR and Airstrikes
To date, the general said, the
coalition has flown more than 20,000 hours of intelligence surveillance and
reconnaissance unmanned aircraft flights that helped to develop the
intelligence picture as the Iraqi forces planned and then recaptured Ramadi. In
Irbil, the general said, the coalition helped peshmerga forces liberate Sinjar
through airstrikes, cutting the vital Highway 47 between Raqqa and Mosul.
“This [Iraqi forces have] enabled about 4,000
Iraqi-approved airstrikes that have been done in direct support of the Iraqi
security forces providing direct assistance to those in the fight,” Clarke