By Cheryl Pellerin DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, September 4, 2015 — Turkey’s help in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has broadened the reach of the coalition, Marine Corps Brig. Gen Kevin J. Killea, chief of staff of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said today.
Killea spoke live from Southwest Asia to media members during a digital video conference, offering an update on CJTF-OIR operations in Iraq.
Last week, Turkey began conducting anti-ISIL air strikes after its contributions were formalized as part of the CJTF-OIR process necessary for integrating coalition members into the fight.
“Turkey's entry into CJTF operations, along with our ability to base attack platforms out of Incirlik [Air Base], has significantly broadened our capabilities by increasing flexibility and targeting and target-area coverage overall,” Killea said.
“Our Turkish military counterparts are now included in the CJTF air-tasking order,” he added, “resulting in a seamless level of coordination and synchronization of air operations.”
This latest contribution in the ongoing partnership with Turkey will ensure more operational integration and successes, the general added, calling it another example of partner nations working toward the common goal of defeating ISIL.
Some of ISIL’s deadliest weapons on the ground are improvised explosive devices and vehicle-borne IEDs, which Killea called a constant threat facing the Iraqi forces.
“IEDs have consistently been a leading cause of casualties for [Iraqi] forces and have contributed significantly to slowing the pace of operations in places like Ramadi,” the general said.
Pace of Operations
During the time it took Iraqi forces to launch a counterattack in Ramadi against the extremist militant group, ISIL was able to cover the area with IEDs and other obstacles, Killea said. The Iraqis are now methodically clearing those devices as they close on the city along multiple avenues of approach. Ramadi, he added, is still a hotly contested area.
CJTF-OIR is “keenly aware” of the significant counter-IED fight the Iraqi forces are now engaged in and expect to face in future operations, the general said.
Over the past several months CJTF has prioritized issuing counter-IED equipment to the Iraqi forces in the form of bulldozers, mine-clearing equipment, anti-armor weapons for the vehicle-borne IED threat and other assured mobility assets, he added.
At the same time, he said, coalition training “has paralleled the equipping efforts by deploying counter-IED training teams to augment other trainers at Taji, Besmaya and Asad. More than 8,000 Iraqi army and Peshmerga soldiers have trained in various aspects of counter-IED operations.”
This training, Killea added, is in addition to initial training that more than 12,000 graduates have received as part of the four- to six-week individual specialty courses given through a program called Building Partner Capacity, or BPC.
This week, the general said, the 75th Iraqi Army Brigade continued its latest block of instruction on coalition-provided weapons.
“In the next week we will issue weapons and equipment to battalions of the 75th through the government of Iraq. This will lead to a two-week training block on the use and maintenance of those weapon systems,” Killea said.
Completing training for the 75th’s first battalion and starting training for the second battalion “gets us closer to having a fifth Iraqi Army brigade trained at a BPC platform,” he added.
The CJTF fully expects that such training will give the 75th “the necessary level of tactical proficiency to provide the Iraqi army an overall greater level of confidence in their operational capabilities,” Killea said.