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American Forces Press Service

Air Power Vital to Counter-ISIL Success, Commander Says

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, February 18, 2016 – As the U.S.-led coalition's air campaign to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Iraq and Syria brings its capabilities to the fight, joint interoperability continues to degrade the terrorist organization, the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command said today.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., who also serves as Combined Forces Air Component commander for Operation Inherent Resolve, briefed Pentagon reporters on progress in the coalition's counter-ISIL air operations via teleconference from an air operations center in Al Udeid, Qatar.

The interoperability among the coalition nations is built upon "years of combined training and multilateral exercises [that have] been key to our continued success in the air campaign," Brown emphasized.

"There is no doubt coalition air power has and continues to dramatically degrade [ISIL's] ability to fight and conduct operations," he added.

While persistent air coverage continually exploits ISIL's weaknesses, "we are more effective today than ever before," the general said. "We're conducting the most precise air campaign in history, and we're able to attrit [ISIL] and its capabilities any time and anywhere."

Targeting Areas for Defeat

Targeting ISIL logistics, command and control and weapons manufacturing are some of the areas in which the coalition has had increased success, he said.

"We've had notable success in targeting [ISIL's] financial resources," Brown said, adding that ISIL has been forced to cut its fighters' pay as a result of strikes carried out to disrupt its illicit financial operations.

Videos showed Air Force and Navy aircraft using precision-guided munitions in airstrikes on financial storage and distribution centers, which Brown explained were planned to minimize collateral damage and to confine risk to just a matter of minutes.

Since the counter-ISIL campaign began about 18 months ago, the coalition has expended 519 weapons and conducted 119 strikes on bulk cash sites, gas and oil separation plants and crude oil collection points, Brown said.

Another video shown during Brown's briefing demonstrated how recent United Kingdom and Saudi Arabian airstrikes used four precision-guided munitions to destroy a weapons storage facility, limiting ISIL's ability to resupply its fighters, he said.

The Iraqi security forces' ability to retake the city of Ramadi from ISIL control is one example of how vital air power is in the counter-ISIL fight, Brown said, adding that airstrikes also have been critical in partner-force operations to take back Sinjar in Iraq and Hasakah, and the Tishrin Dam on the Euphrates River in Syria.

Persistent air power has halted ISIL, and its leaders and fighters are disappearing in large numbers, the general said, adding that the enemy fears the coalition's air power.

"This is due to our operational reach and flexibility, our precision and lethality, and our constant presence and responsiveness," Brown said, vowing to continue delivering airstrikes to destroy and defeat ISIL.

Russia Avoids Coalition Forces in Syria

In Syria, where the Russians and the U.S.-led coalition already comply with a memorandum of understanding for flight safety, the Russian military has also avoided certain areas where U.S. special operators and coalition forces are deployed, Brown noted.

The general areas in which U.S. and coalition forces operate was shared with Russia 'out of an abundance of safety for our special operations,' he said, adding that the Russians also shared similar information about its ground positions, such as its airfields in western Syria.

'We have made a request, and [the Russians] have honored that request,' Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said, following the briefing.

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