March 25, 2016 —
WASHINGTON (March 25, 2016) — The U.S. military killed several key Islamic State of Iraq
and the Levant terrorists this week, including a senior ISIL leader and finance
minister who led certain external affairs and plots, Defense Secretary Ash
Carter said here Friday.
During a Pentagon press briefing,
joined by Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
Carter said the coalition is systematically eliminating ISIL's cabinet,
including Haji Imam.
“He was a well-known terrorist
within ISIL's ranks, dating back to its earliest iteration as al-Qaida in Iraq
when he worked under [the group’s leader Abu Musab al-] Zarqawi as its liaison
for operations with Pakistan,” the secretary said.
Hampering ISIL Operations
“The removal of this ISIL leader
will hamper the organization's ability … to conduct operations both inside and
outside of Iraq and Syria,” he said.
Carter said Imam is the second
senior ISIL leader the coalition has killed this month. Earlier this month
defense officials confirmed the death of ISIL's so-called minister of war, Abu
Omar al-Shishani, known as Omar the Chechen.
When the fight against ISIL
accelerated a few months ago, the secretary said, the coalition began with
storage sites where ISIL holds its cash, and now the leader who oversees all
funding for ISIL operations is dead, hurting the terrorist army’s ability to
pay fighters and hire recruits.
“Our campaign plan is first and
foremost to collapse ISIL's parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, focusing on its
power centers in Raqqa and Mosul,” he added.
In Syria, coalition-supported local
forces recently took the town of Shaddadi, repelled ISIL's counterattacks and
ultimately severed the main artery between Syria and northern Iraq, making it
harder for ISIL's leaders and forces to travel between Raqqa and Mosul, Carter
Iraqi forces have moved from their
staging base at Makhmur and are advancing to new positions as part of the early
stages of operations to collapse ISIL's control over Mosul, the defense
U.S. Marines near Makhmur now are
providing artillery fire there at Iraq’s request, he said, to help protect and
support the Iraqi advance against ISIL.
“In both Syria and Iraq we're seeing
important steps to shape what will become crucial battles in the months to
come,” Carter said.
As local partners move forward, the
coalition continues to bring relentless pressure on ISIL commanders in Mosul,
the secretary added.
Along with killing Imam, U.S. forces
targeted Abu Sara, a top ISIL leader charged with paying fighters in northern
Iraq, and several ISIL associates who were directly involved in external
plotting and training, he said.
“These precise actions came after
recent strikes that destroyed a significant quantity of improvised explosive
devices and bomb-making equipment that could have been used against our
partners headed for Mosul,” Carter added, noting that the actions are believed
to be successful and damaging to ISIL.
The defense secretary said the
momentum of the campaign against ISIL is clearly on the coalition’s side.
“The United States military will
continue to work intensively with our coalition partners to build on this
progress, as our counterparts throughout our governments work to defend our
homelands at the same time,” he said.
Carter also announced that yesterday
he and his Saudi counterpart, Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammad
bin Salman, agreed to convene a U.S.-Gulf Cooperation defense ministerial on
April 20 in Riyadh ahead of President Barack Obama's participation in the
U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council leaders’ summit there the next day.
“This will be an important forum to
build on our counter-ISIL defense ministerial in Brussels last month,” Carter
The meeting also will strengthen U.S.-GCC
defense partnerships by allowing participants to review and discuss the way
ahead for joint regional defense initiatives that all committed to during the
2015 US-GCC Camp David Summit last May, the secretary added.