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OIR Spokesman: Coalition Cripples ISIL Oil Distribution

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 2015 — The coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant unleashed a wave of attacks targeting ISIL's oil distribution chain, disrupting a source of revenue for the terrorists, an Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman said today

Speaking to Pentagon reporters via teleconference from Baghdad, Army Col. Steve Warren said the coalition destroyed 116 tanker trucks in Abu Kamal in eastern Syria.

The aim of Operation Tidal Wave II, Warren said, is to target ISIL's entire oil distribution chain, which includes trucks, wellheads, pumps and collection points.

"This was an extraordinarily ... effective operation," he said, noting it was the coalition's first strike against tanker trucks.

"This was not a piecemeal execution; this was a sudden strike. This was a tidal wave that swept across these oil fields and it really crippled them," Warren said.

The execution of Tidal Wave II was similar to the way Tidal Wave I was carried out in the 1940s against Nazi oil fields in Romania, he said.

The truck drivers were likely not members of ISIL, but rather civilians, he said.

To minimize the risk to the drivers, the coalition members dropped leaflets and flew low past the trucks to warn of the impending military operation, Warren said. The strike was carried out by A-10 Thunderbolt II fighters and AC-130 Hercules gunships.

"We know that oil funds more than 50 percent of ISIL's operations," he said. "We need to take this away from them so that their operations are more difficult to conduct."

Syrian Forces Reclaim Ground from ISIL

Syrian democratic forces liberated Hawl Nov. 14, the spokesman said.

"ISIL held Al Hawl for the last nine months, but they retreated as the Syrian democratic forces approached," Warren said.

The Syrian democratic forces, he said, capitalized on the retreat and reclaimed nearly 200 small villages from ISIL control.

During the two-week campaign for Hawl, friendly forces reclaimed 730 square kilometers of territory, Warren said. The coalition conducted 79 airstrikes in support, killing more than 300 enemy fighters and destroying 105 ISIL fighting positions, he added.

In addition, Warren said, members of the New Syrian Forces who were trained by the coalition conducted a mortar raid on an ISIL stronghold in the tri-border area. They destroyed five buildings and a weapons cache.

The spokesman said this was the first mission of its kind in southern Syria.

Partner in France

Warren highlighted the contributions from France to the coalition, and sent condolences for last week's terrorist attacks.

"It's something that we certainly felt here. This is a coalition that over time becomes a lot like a family, so our thoughts and our prayers and our hearts are very much with the French," he said.

The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which is on its way to the area, will add significant strike capability to the coalition, Warren noted.

Coalition Efforts

The overarching objective of the coalition efforts is to partner with ground forces, enable them to conduct offensive operations, and provide coalition air power to the offensive operations, he explained.

"As indigenous, friendly forces maneuver against our enemy, it causes our enemy to move. The enemy has to react," Warren said. "As soon as the enemy reacts, we kill them from the air."

Military leaders have to carefully weigh how to execute operations against the terrorists while avoiding civilian casualties, he said.

"This enemy is ruthless; they are brutal; they are sadistic. They kill and torture for fun," Warren said. "This is a very difficult balance that we have to do and it's something that we wrestle with every single day."

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)