NEWS | April 13, 2016

OIR spokesman: Coalition focuses on dismantling, fragmenting ISIL

By Lisa Ferdinando, DoD News

WASHINGTON (April 13, 2016) — The coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has successfully degraded the enemy, with military efforts now focused on dismantling and fragmenting ISIL, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve said Wednesday.

In a briefing from Baghdad, Army Col. Steve Warren told Pentagon reporters the coalition has made significant progress since the start of the campaign in August 2014.

"A year and a half ago, we saw images of ISIL convoys moving freely into Mosul and throughout Iraq," Warren said. "Those days are gone. Our enemy has been weakened and we are now working to fracture him."

ISIL has lost more than 40 percent of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria, and has been routed from most of the Turkish border, Warren said.

"While ISIL can still put together some complex attacks, they have not been able to take hold of any key terrain for almost a year now," he said.

Focus on Enabling Partners, Dismantling ISIL

Phase One of the military campaign, which was to degrade the enemy, was successful in stopping ISIL from advancing, Warren told reporters.

"This was an effort to eliminate ISIL’s ability to operate as a conventional force," he said. The counter-ISIL military efforts are now in the second phase, the colonel said.

"During this phase, we will enable our partners to dismantle the enemy, fragment his forces, isolate his centers of gravity and liberate the terrain he holds," Warren said.

This strategy, he said, requires well-equipped and trained partners on the ground.

"We've seen that with effective training, proper equipment and devastating coalition air power, Iraqi forces can win," Warren said. "We've seen this in Tikrit, Beiji, Sinjar, Ramadi and most recently in Hit."

Progress in Iraq

Warren said an estimated 75 percent of Hit is now clear. Iraqi forces are expected to push ISIL out of the city in the coming days, he said.

The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service has evacuated an estimated 7,000 civilians over the last several days, Warren said. The coalition, he said, has conducted 21 airstrikes against 108 separate enemy targets, resulting in more than 500 enemy deaths.

In Fallujah, Iraqi forces are in defensive positions preparing for future operations, Warren said.

In the Tigris River Valley, operations are heavily contested, according to the spokesman. ISIL knows that once it loses that territory, the Iraqis will be able to position themselves for the eventual liberation of Mosul, he explained.

"We are seeing ISIL put up some of its toughest fighting in the Kara Soar area, but we are also seeing the ISF dig in and successfully repel attacks," he said.

Liberated Areas in Syria

Since the start of April, local forces in Syria have liberated more than a dozen small villages to the northwest in the Mara area, Warren said.

The spokesman said that although that area does not make up a significant amount of territory, it is "critically important terrain for ISIL." He described it as ISIL's "last best route to move people, money and supplies into Syria and Iraq."

There is now less than 100 kilometers of uncontested border crossing in the Manbij pocket, according to Warren.

"Since the first of April, the coalition has enabled operations in this sector with 16 airstrikes that have resulted in several dozen dead terrorists and much equipment destroyed," he explained.

In Hassakah province, to the east near Shaddadi, the Syrian Democratic Forces have secured approximately 6,200 square kilometers, which is roughly the size of Delaware, the spokesman said.

"These most recent gains are the result of successful Syrian Arab Coalition and Syrian Democratic Force operations to stabilize the forward line of troops and further fragment the enemy’s position between Mosul and Raqqa," he said.