By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, May 7, 2015 – The Pentagon’s senior leaders today reiterated their commitment to help the Iraqi government and other allies in delivering a lasting defeat to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who was accompanied at the Pentagon news briefing by Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed the talks he had earlier today with Iraqi-Kurdistan regional president Masoud Barzani.
“We talked about our progress in the fight against ISIL,” Carter told reporters. “I recognize the sacrifice that all Iraqis have made in this struggle, and congratulated him on retaking territory loss to ISIL.”
The secretary added, “I understand that some on Capitol Hill would like to bypass the Iraqi government and directly arm the Kurds and some Iraqi tribes.”
But DoD opposes such a move, the secretary said.
“We believe a unified Iraq is critical to the long-term defeat of ISIL,” Carter said.
Battle for the Beiji Refinery
Dempsey said ISIL forces are battling Iraqi security forces over the Beiji oil refinery.
“The Iraqis … have lost some control of the perimeter and some of the road network that leads to it through the emplacement of … especially improvised explosive devices,” the chairman said.
The Beiji refinery is significant to Iraq because it is a part of the nation's critical oil infrastructure, Dempsey said.
“[Beiji] sits on the corridor that runs from Baghdad to … Beiji, Kirkuk, and over to Mosul,” the chairman said. “It also sits on a corridor that runs from the Tigris River Valley to the Euphrates River Valley.”
Beiji’s Critical Significance
That makes Beiji geographically and economically significant, Dempsey said.
“The Iraqis understand the significance [of Beiji] and are working to ensure they retain control of the Beiji oil refinery,” the chairman said.
Dempsey highlighted U.S. military support to help Iraqi security forces in the fight to defeat ISIL.
“We've conducted 26 airstrikes since the fifth of May,” Dempsey said. “We've been working with [a mobile training team in Baghdad Airport] to assist them in rigging airdrops.”
And an 18-pallet airdrop was conducted to resupply the Iraqi force at Beiji, he added.