Friday, October 17, 2014

Anti-ISIL Strategy Working, Needs Patience, Austin Says

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

FORT MEADE, Md., Oct. 17, 2014 – The strategy against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is working, but degrading and destroying the terror group will require “strategic patience,” Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III said today.

Austin, the commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters at the Pentagon that Iraq remains the focus of operations for his command and the airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq are having an effect.

“The things that we’re doing right now in Syria are being done primarily to shape the conditions in Iraq,” Austin said. “Once the Iraqis are able to get a better handle on the situation inside of their country and regain control of their border, that will help to localize the problems a bit more.”

Airstrikes having effect

The airstrikes are having a decided effect on ISIL, the general said, but they’re just one part of the total U.S. whole-of-government effort in the region.

“We are enabling the efforts of the Iraqis in their fight against ISIL, acknowledging that, in addition to halting ISIL’s advance, the Iraqis must secure the border,” he said. “They must regenerate and restructure their forces to ensure that they are able to provide for the sovereignty of their country going forward. And this represents our main focus right now -- enabling the efforts of the Iraqis.”

The airstrikes are targeting specific ISIL capabilities, Austin said. The strikes focus on ISIL command and control capabilities, the terror group’s ability to project combat power, and sustainment capabilities. The coalition is very careful to not cause civilian casualties in the attacks.

“Had we killed a lot of innocent civilians, and specifically in Sunni areas, I think that it is fair to say that we would be in a much different place at this point,” the general said. “But because we’ve done this the right way, we’ve secured the support of our Sunni Arab partners in the region. And together, we are making progress.”

The strikes have taken out ISIL's communications equipment and their command centers, Austin said. Airpower has also hit vehicle parks, taking out enemy tanks, artillery, and armored personnel carriers.

Eliminating oil financing

The strikes also hit the underpinning of ISIL financial power, taking out oil refineries under ISIL control, the general said.

“By striking these types of facilities, we reduce their ability to generate the funds and the fuel required to sustain their operations,” Austin said. “And we are having the desired effects.”

Centcom believes the strikes are having an effect not only via battle damage assessments, but by changes in the enemy’s behavior and tactics, he said.

“We’re no longer seeing them move around the country in large convoys,” the general said. “Now they’re mostly traveling in civilian vehicles in smaller numbers. This is hindering their ability to mass and to shift combat power.”

ISIL also altered methods of communication, he said, which is inhibiting the terror group’s ability to coordinate and synchronize efforts.

Airstrikes will continue to degrade ISIL and Iraqi forces will continue to gain strength and cohesion, Austin said.

“We must remain focused and disciplined in our approach,” he said. “Most important, we must maintain strategic patience going forward. The campaign to destroy ISIL will take time and there will be occasional setbacks along the way, and particularly in these early stages of the campaign as we coach and mentor a force that is actively working to regenerate capability after years of neglect and poor leadership.”

The United States is in this effort for the long haul, the general said.

“We intend to defeat and ultimately destroy ISIL,” Austin said. “Even more important, we want to change conditions inside of Iraq and Syria so that what we see happening there now does not happen again in the future.”

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Inherent Resolve Airstrikes Continue in Syria

From a U.S. Central Command News Release

TAMPA, Fla., Oct. 16, 2014 – U.S. military forces continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria yesterday and today, using bomber and fighter aircraft deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations to conduct 14 airstrikes, Centcom officials reported.

All 14 airstrikes took place near Kobani. Initial reports indicate the strikes successfully struck 19 ISIL buildings, two ISIL command posts, three ISIL fighting positions, three ISIL sniper positions, one ISIL staging location, and one ISIL heavy machine gun, Centcom officials said, adding that all aircraft departed the strike areas safely.

Interdicting reinforcement and resupply

These airstrikes are designed to interdict ISIL reinforcements and resupply and prevent ISIL from massing combat power on the Kurdish-held portions of Kobani, officials explained. Indications are that airstrikes have continued to slow ISIL advances, they added, but they acknowledged that that the security situation in Kobani remains tenuous.

The U.S. strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate ISIL and the threat the terrorist group poses to Iraq, the region and the wider international community, officials said.

ISIL’s Actions Have Enabled More Airstrikes, DoD Spokesman Says

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2014 – A concentration of fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant around the town of Kobani along Syria’s border with Turkey has led to more airstrikes against the terrorist group, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.

“With these airstrikes, we took advantage of the opportunity to hit ISIL as they attempt to mass their forces and combat power on the Kurdish-held positions. … What makes Kobani significant is the fact that ISIL wants it, and the more they want it, the more forces and resources they apply to it, the more targets are available for us to hit there,” Kirby said at a State Department news conference.

No strategic shift in Syria

The increase in airstrikes doesn’t represent a strategic shift, at least from the military perspective, toward Kobani or any other town, the admiral said. Air power alone will not be sufficient to save any town, he added, and Kobani still could fall.

“Our military participation is from the air, and the air only, right now,” Kirby said. “We’ve all been honest about the fact that air power alone is not going to be able to save any town in particular. I think we’ve been pretty consistent about the fact that we need to all be prepared for other towns and other cities to fall too.”

Goal is to deny sanctuary

While the security situation there does remain tenuous, Kirby said, ISIL’s advances appear to have slowed, “and we know that we have inflicted damage upon them.” ISIL wants ground, territory and infrastructure, he added, so the group should be expected to continue to try to make those gains.

It is important to note that coalition efforts in Syria are intended to deny safe haven and sanctuary for ISIL fighters, the admiral said.

“We’re trying to help not let that happen, so Kobani matters from that perspective. “It also matters tactically, because … they’re putting more resources to the fight, so there are more targets.”

The admiral said several hundred ISIL fighters have been killed just in strikes in and around Kobani. “It would be irresponsible for us not to try to target them in a more aggressive way as they become more aggressive around Kobani itself,” Kirby said.

The Pentagon spokesman said a narrative making the rounds describes ISIL as opportunistic, adaptive and agile. “Nobody is more opportunistic or agile or adaptive than the United States military,” he said. “And so, we’re going to continue to go after them, whatever they are and wherever we can.”

Turkey’s participation

A joint U.S. European Command and U.S. Central Command team has wrapped up meetings in Turkey concerning ISIL, Kirby said. “The discussions went very, very well, and they center around looking for other ways and other contributions that Turkey can commit to this,” he told reporters.

Turkey is an ally, he said, adding that there’s no question it’s going to be a partner in this effort. “But just as we’ve done with every other country -- there’s more than 60 -- is they have to determine what those contributions are going to be. They have to announce them. They have to decide, and we’re going to respect that.”