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White House, DoD Step Up Counter-ISIL Campaign in Iraq, Syria

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2015 — Intensifying the campaign against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Iraq and Syria will enhance U.S. military strategies that are working while moving away from those that are not, a senior Defense Department official said today.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters on background following the White House announcement on stepping up the anti-ISIL campaign, the official said DoD outlined five objectives that, used in concert, will achieve strategic success.

Concurrent With Existing Campaign

The five objectives will be concurrent with the existing U.S. and coalition forces campaign to maximize pressure on ISIL, the official said. The objectives are designed to:

-- Enhance training in Iraq, particularly in counter-improvised explosive devices, counter-breaching and combined arms to enable Iraqi security forces to take back Ramadi and Beiji from ISIL control. The training is to counter what has become ISIL’s sophisticated use of IEDs.

-- Add new and additional local Syrian forces and equipment to take and ultimately hold the ISIL-declared stronghold of Raqqa. A small complement of special operations forces is deploying to northern Syria to help coordinate local ground forces in advise-and-assist roles, such as operational planning and logistics. The White House said the U.S. special ops forces would number less than 50. The DoD official noted those forces also could be used to support continued raids in Iraq and Syria, but not to participate in joint operations.

-- Secure northern Syria’s border with Turkey to drastically reduce the flow of foreign fighters, material and money to ISIL. Putting pressure on the northern Syria border also is designed to thicken air operations in the region, the official said, with a greater density of planes making airstrikes, in addition to adding a greater density of intelligence assets to develop targets. The White House announcement said A-10s and F-15s will be deployed to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.

-- Degrade ISIL lines of communication to strain the connection ISIL extremists have between Raqqa and Mosul in Iraq.

-- Reinforce Jordan’s and Lebanon’s defenses as ISIL is pushed south and west. Enhancing counter-ISIL support in both nations is expected to provide enhanced contingency planning so a strong defense plan is in place and reinforced, the official said. Lebanon likely will have doubled security assistance in its armed forces to protect against ISIL’s and other terrorist groups’ encroachment, the official said.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter:@MoonCronkDoD)