Airstrikes conducted overnight were intended to disrupt the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s ability to lead and control its forces, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.
Speaking during a live interview with DoD News, the admiral discussed the purpose of the strikes and expressed confidence in their effectiveness.
“We think that these were very effective in disrupting, degrading and damaging [ISIL] command and control capabilities,” Kirby said. “That’s what we were really going after -- their ability to lead, and to command and control their troops.” Therefore, he said, the strikes targeted ISIL training, financing and re-supply sites.
Assessments of the strikes’ effectiveness are still going on, Kirby said, but he expressed confidence that they were successful. “Every indication that we’ve seen so far is that we hit exactly what we were aiming at,” he said.
Almost 95 percent of the munitions dropped in last night’s airstrikes were precision-guided munitions, Kirby noted. “That gives us great comfort in terms of the strikes themselves, but it also speaks a lot to the degree to which we tried to avoid collateral damage and civilian casualties,” he said. “We were trying to get after very specific capabilities that they have, and in order to do that, we wanted to be as precise and lethal as we could be.”
ISIL losing support
The press secretary noted ISIL’s only support comes out of “fear and intimidation.”
“They’ve based their whole structure on a warped ideology, which is just brutal and barbaric,” Kirby said. “And we have seen that even though those sympathetic Sunni populations have now begun to turn on ISIL, and they start to either leave the group or, certainly, stop supporting the group. So there’s no way that a group like this is going to obviously survive, with this brutal ideology that they espouse.”
ISIL terrorists are further isolating themselves simply by virtue of their conduct, Kirby said.
“That doesn’t mean they’re less dangerous, doesn’t mean we’re taking our eye off it, doesn’t mean we can get lazy,” he added. “They still pose a significant threat to our interests in the region, to our people, to our facilities, and eventually -- they have global aspirations -- possibly a threat to the homeland.”
Partnerships and coalition effort
Kirby said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was very grateful to Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command, for his leadership, and for State Department collaboration in building a “very modern regional coalition” to conduct the airstrikes.
“Five Arab nations participated in these air operations,” he said. “Not all of them conducted strikes -- most of them did. … When going after a group like this, which has so violated the central elements of Islam, [we are grateful] that we had Arab partners standing side by side with us.”
Partnerships, Kirby noted, are a key component of the defense secretary’s priorities, along with people and capabilities.
“We’ve got to have willing partners around the world,” he said, noting that they help U.S. forces with their missions and operations and to better understand the cultures in which they’re operating. They also contribute to sharing the load of military operations around the world, he added.
Targeting the Khorasan group
Meanwhile, Kirby said, the Defense Department still is assessing U.S.-only strikes against the terrorist organization known as the Khorasan group.
“We did have good information that they were in the final planning stages of an attack against Western targets -- potentially the U.S. homeland or Europe,” he said.
”We’re not going to take our eye off this group, or their capabilities or their intentions,” he added.
(Follow Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallDoDNews)