WASHINGTON, January 29, 2016 —
Over the past week the coalition has kept pressure on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant across the depth and breadth of the battlefield, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said today.
During a video briefing live from Baghdad, Warren told the Pentagon press corps here that the coalition’s fundamental concept is to provide simultaneous pressure on ISIL.
“Keep pressure on this enemy, all the time, everywhere,” he said, “because that forces them to have to make very difficult decisions.”
This week on the battlefield, coalition airstrikes over Iraq and Syria targeted mainly Mosul, Ramadi in the Anbar corridor and the Raqqa area.
Isolate Through Fires
“Our focus on Raqqa really is to isolate through fires,” Warren said. “We're trying to isolate them to make their lives harder, to make it more difficult for them to move things in and out of the city, and we're trying to degrade them, chip away at their strength and their combat power.”
Friendly forces are maneuvering around Raqqa near the Tishreen Dam to the west and Hawl to the east, he added.
“As [ISIL] sees the forces maneuver,” Warren said, “the enemy has to then try to predict what's going to happen next and act accordingly, and by doing that he exposes himself to our airstrikes.”
On the ground this week in Iraq, operations have focused on clearing ISIL stragglers in Ramadi, improving defensive positions in Sinjar and patrolling in Beiji, he added.
In Syria, fighting along the Mara Line in the country’s northwest continues to be contested as both forces conducted limited offensive operations. Friendly forces holding the Tishreen Dam near Aleppo improved their defensive positions.
In a training update, Warren said the 72nd Iraqi Army Brigade has finished training in Besmaya, Iraq.
“That training is led by the Spanish and the Portuguese contingents,” he said, adding that the training was extended by about six weeks to include a new focus on obstacle breaching.
The standard training, he said, is eight weeks long, with extra time possible for commando school, sniper school, some medic training, and other mission-specific areas.
Warren said coalition teams have so far trained about 20,000 Iraqi security forces -- including police and Sunni tribal fighters.
“What we're doing now is … building the force that will go to Mosul eventually,” he added, noting that about 10 brigades must be built and trained.
“We believe that all the forces we've already trained and run through Ramadi, for example, are certainly capable of moving to Mosul. But we [decided to] … run them through another cycle of training. Are they trained? Yes. Could they go to Mosul now? Yes. But we would prefer to give them additional training before they go,” Warren told reporters.
Tidal Wave II
In other coalition activity, Warren said operation Tidal Wave II continues to target ISIL's illicit oil infrastructure in Iraq and Syria.
Several coalition airstrikes recently targeted gas and other separation points in the region between Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa, he added.
“Our operations to strike at other elements of ISIL's financial system [also continue],” Warren said, “the most notable [being] our strikes against banks where we destroyed piles of Daesh cash.” Daesh is another term for ISIL.
On Russian airstrikes in northwest Syria, Warren said they have helped strengthen Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, particularly in the Aleppo region where the airstrikes have been most intense.
“Those airstrikes have benefited the Assad regime and have allowed [Assad] to push back moderate Syrian opposition forces,” he said, “and in some cases ISIL.”
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)