By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, September 11, 2015 — Coalition-backed ground forces in Iraq and Syria continue to make progress in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, U.S. Central Command spokesman Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder told reporters here today.
Speaking via teleconference, Ryder said the coalition’s support of Operation Inherent Resolve continues to enable indigenous ground forces by applying pressure on ISIL’s key command and control areas, logistics nodes, staging areas, and lines of communication.
Coalition forces specifically continue to help Iraqi operations around Beiji and Ramadi, he said.
“One of these  airstrikes targeted a key ISIL staging area and weapons depot just west of Ramadi in a soccer stadium,” Ryder said.
Beiji, Oil refinery, Still Contested
Beiji and its oil refinery remain contested, he noted, adding Centcom has seen Iraqis and ISIL bring in some replacements.
“The coalition has conducted 13 airstrikes [from Sept. 2-9], which have taken out a number of ISIL personnel, nearly 100 vehicles, and several weapons and supply caches,” Ryder said.
“ISIL continues to put up a fight in Beiji, but … we assess they have lost several hundred fighters and continue to reinforce failure by sending in additional forces,” he noted. “Much like other areas of Iraq and Syria, when ISIL present themselves, we will strike them,” he added.
Other Coalition Efforts Paying Off
In addition to airstrikes, the coalition building partner capacity sites have trained about 13,000 Iraqi forces since the campaign began, and 4,000 additional troops are in training, Ryder said.
“We have seen graduates of this program subsequently operate effectively in areas around Ramadi and other parts of Iraq,” he said.
For example, as Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Kevin Killea, chief of staff, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve highlighted last week, the coalition specialized engineer forces are training Iraqi forces to clear large numbers of improvised explosive devices, which is helping against ISF and civilian casualties, Ryder said.
The coalition’s advise-and-assist effort also continues to enable ground forces in Iraq by assisting with planning ground operations, intelligence sharing, integrating air support into operations, logistics planning, command and control, and communications, he said.
Syria Opposition Force Training Increases
The coalition’s Syria train-and-equip program continues to train vetted Syrian opposition force recruits, and a fourth class recently began training, Ryder said.
“It’s important to keep in mind this program is still in the early stages and the forces trained as a part of the train-and-equip program are expected to be additive in nature,” he said. “They will further contribute to what’s already being done by the Syrian Kurds, Arabs and various other anti-ISIL forces.”