Austin Expresses Confidence That Anti-ISIL Forces Will Win in Iraq, Syria
By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, January 14, 2016 – Indigenous forces in Iraq and Syria, supported by a 60-nation coalition, are making progress against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the commander of U.S. Central Command said today.
Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III spoke during a news conference at Centcom headquarters in Tampa, Florida, with Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
Anti-ISIL forces have made progress in Tikrit, Beiji, Ramadi and Sinjar in Iraq, and in Hawl, the Tishrin Dam area and along the Mara Line in Syria, Austin said. "We are, in fact, doing what we set out to do, and that is to put increased pressure on the enemy throughout the depth of the battle space, and he is feeling the effects of those efforts, there's no doubt about it," he added.
The general gave an example of one nontraditional way the coalition is supporting efforts across the board against ISIL. "A few days ago, we conducted a strike on bulk cash storage facility in Mosul," he said. "It was a good strike. And we estimate that it served to deprive ISIL of millions of dollars."
Constraining ISIL's Finances
That and other strikes against the oil and gas infrastructure serve to constrain the organization's finances, Austin said, adding that the strikes against these sites and other pieces of the group's economic infrastructure mean ISIL is feeling the strain in its checkbook "You see, ISIL needs those funds to pay their fighters, to recruit new fighters and to conduct their various malign activities," he explained.
Central Command officials said at the beginning of the campaign that going after these economic targets would be key in combating ISIL, the general said. "We're going to have to take away [ISIL's] ability to resource [itself], and we're going to have to curb the flow of foreign fighters coming into the theater," Austin said.
This is in addition to attacking and killing fielded forces and taking back ground that ISIL once held in Iraq and Syria, he said.
Momentum Has Shifted
Recent successes for the indigenous forces and the coalition have shifted the momentum to the anti-ISIL coalition, Austin said.
"More and more opportunities have developed over time, and we have actively pursued each and every one of these opportunities," the general said. "These opportunities are the result of increased movement on the ground, a better understanding of the battle space and a better developed human intelligence network."
This has allowed Centcom to refine targets and promote strategies that work, Austin said. "All together, these efforts translate into devastating effects on the enemy," he added.
The general noted that ISIL is in a defensive posture in Syria and Iraq. "Going forward, we can expect to see [ISIL] rely increasingly on acts of terrorism such as we saw this week in Baghdad and in Turkey, and most recently in Jakarta," he said. "We can expect to see more of this type of activity, in part because ISIL wants to draw attention away from the growing number of setbacks that [it] is experiencing."
A Terrorist Organization
He stressed that the terror attacks do not mean the group is getting stronger. "ISIL, by its nature, is a terrorist organization, and by conducting these attacks, he's attempting to produce an image of invincibility in the wake of setbacks," Austin said.
The Centcom commander summed up the strategy by saying it is making progress.
"That said, the fight against ISIL is far from over," he said. "And as I tell my troops often, we've got to keep our dukes up, and we will. We're going to continue to do what we've been doing over the course of the campaign. We're going to continue to work closely with our coalition partners, and support and enable … the efforts of the forces on the ground. We're going to continue to pursue opportunities across the battle space, and I am confident that as we do this, we will be successful, and we will defeat … this enemy."
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