WASHINGTON, October 9, 2015 —
The fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is a
"long and arduous" process, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook reiterated today in a statement announcing that the Pentagon has shifted its focus in
Syria and modified its program to train and equip moderate Syrian forces.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter directed the department to provide
equipment packages and weapons to a "select group of vetted leaders and their
units so that over time they can make a concerted push into territory still
controlled by ISIL," Cook said.
In the statement, Carter said he remains “convinced that a lasting defeat
of ISIL in Syria will depend in part on the success of local, motivated and
capable ground forces.”
"I believe the changes we are instituting today will, over
time, increase the combat power of counter-ISIL forces in Syria and ultimately
help our campaign achieve a lasting defeat of ISIL," he said.
Monitor Progress of Anti-ISIL Groups
The Pentagon will monitor the progress of the groups and provide
them with air support in the fight against ISIL. The focus on equipping and
enabling will reinforce the progress already made in countering ISIL in Syria, Cook
DoD will continue to evaluate the program and expects to make "refinements
and adjustments over time as appropriate," he said.
The fight against ISIL will take time, Cook said. "Working with
local partners to win back territory taken by ISIL will continue to be a long
and arduous process," he said.
A key part of the strategy remains involvement with "capable
indigenous forces on the ground," Christine Wormuth, undersecretary of defense
for policy, said today in a conference call with reporters.
A sustained air campaign, in combination with capable forces on the
ground conducting offensive operations, has delivered results in northern Syria
in Kobani and Tal Abyad, she said.
The core of the new approach, Wormuth said, is to work with groups already
fighting ISIL on the ground. Those groups, she said, will be provided "basic
equipment packages" to distribute to their fighting forces to make them
more effective in combination with airstrikes.
There were significant challenges with the initial program to train
and equip moderate Syrian opposition fighters, she said.
The fight against ISIL is the most complex and dynamic situation
imaginable, said Brett McGurk, the deputy special presidential envoy for the global
coalition to counter ISIL.
"I think we've learned over the last year that the more we can
be adaptive, the more we can look to seize opportunities as they arise, the
more effective we can be," he told reporters on the conference call.