By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, April 17, 2015 – Iraqi security forces and coalition partners are making progress in Operation Inherent Resolve’s fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a U.S. Central Command official told reporters here today.
Anti-ISIL forces are performing, as predicted, Centcom spokesman Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder told reporters here during what is expected to be a weekly operational update teleconference on the campaigns in Iraq and Syria against the extremist group.
“We are where we thought we would be at this point in the execution of the military campaign to degrade, dismantle and ultimately defeat ISIL,” said Ryder, quoting recent congressional testimony from Centcom commander Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III.
“As the fighting near Beiji and Ramadi this week has demonstrated, this remains a very tough fight,” Ryder said from Centcom’s headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.
“While ISIL is largely on the defensive in Iraq, we should expect this enemy to conduct the attacks like we’re seeing in Beiji and Ramadi to hold terrain, disrupt the Iraqi security forces and gain publicity,” he added.
Using a projected map to outline three operational areas in Iraq, he said Iraqi and coalition forces continue operations in eastern Anbar province from Karma to Haditha, and in Fallujah and Ramadi.
Haditha Under Iraqi Control
“Some parts of Anbar such as portions of Ramadi remain contested, while others such as Haditha remain firmly under Iraqi control,” Ryder said.
Centcom has assessed that Ramadi remains contested, with ISIL regaining some territory in recent days, he said.
However, Iraqi security forces continue “to push against ISIL’s strongholds and conduct clearing operations. Coalition forces are supporting Iraqi ground forces with precision airstrikes, intelligence and planning support,” Ryder said.
Beiji Oil Refinery Contested
In Iraq’s Salahuddin and Kirkuk provinces, the second area of operations, Centcom officials say the Beiji oil refinery remains contested.
“ISIL has been conducting disrupting attacks against the refinery and … has penetrated the outer perimeter. However, the refinery remains under ISF control and we are supporting the Iraqis’ efforts to repel the enemy’s attack,” Ryder said.
Between Iraqi security forces pushing back and the coalition’s 200 airstrikes since the start of operations to reinforce the refinery and clear Beiji, Ryder said the strikes resulted in significant ISIL losses.
In the third area of Ninawa province, coalition and Kurdish security forces continue to cut ISIL’s lines of communication, he said, adding, “The Kurds have secured large swaths of territory from ISIL to include the city of Sinjar and Sinjar Mountain.”
Additionally, the coalition continues its air strikes in and around Mosul, targeting ISIL’s military capabilities, its leaders and its lines of communication in the area, Ryder said.
Gaining Ground in Kobani
In Kobani, Syria, the coalition’s fourth operational area, the joint forces “have enabled Kurdish forces with air support and reconnaissance as they reclaim additional territory,” Ryder said.
“Since retaking the entire town, these fighters have performed exceptionally well, extending their forward line significantly, and that territory continues to expand,” he added.
In northeast Syria, the same fighters also made progress pushing ISIL forces out of dozens of towns and villages, creating additional expanses of territory that’s free from ISIL control, Ryder said.
“It’s a hard fight,” he said of the battle against ISIL, “and from the outset we’ve said it’s going to take some time.”