WASHINGTON, February 29, 2016 —
Momentum is on the side of the coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today, noting significant gains in Iraq and Syria.
The secretary spoke in a joint news conference at the Pentagon with Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Forces on the ground in Iraq have retaken Ramadi and are making progress in Anbar, while the coalition is making "operationally significant strides" in Syria, he said.
"Because of our strategy and our determination to accelerate our campaign, momentum is now on our side and not on ISIL's," Carter said.
Gains Include Reclaiming Shadadi
The secretary highlighted how coalition forces recently reclaimed Shadadi, a town in northeastern Syria, that he described as a "critical node" for ISIL training, logistics and its oil enterprise. "As our partners take control of Shadadi, I believe we will learn a great deal more about ISIL's criminal networks, its criminal enterprise and what it does to sustain them," Carter said.
Shadadi is important in efforts to sever the "last major artery" between the Syrian city of Raqqa -- ISIL’s putative headquarters -- and the Iraqi city of Mosul, an "operation critical to dissecting ISIL's parent tumor into two parts," he said.
Accelerated Efforts Include Cyber
The campaign to defeat ISIL is being accelerated across Syria and Iraq, the defense secretary said.
Coalition members are bombing ISIL's banks and oil wells, he said, and cyber tools are being used to disrupt ISIL's ability to operate and communicate over the virtual battlefield.
The cyber efforts are being used, particularly in Syria, Carter said, to disrupt ISIL's command and control operations, cause the terrorists to lose confidence in their networks and to interrupt their ability to control the population and the economy.
Cyber is an "important new capability," he said. "This is something that's new in this war, not something you would've seen back in the Gulf War. It is an important use of our Cyber Command -- and the reason that Cyber Command was established in the first place."
ISIL is one of five challenges that must be addressed as part of DoD's mission to defend the nation, Carter told reporters.
The other challenges are Russian aggression in Europe, a rising China that is "behaving aggressively," and the threats of North Korea and Iran in their respective regions, he said.
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)