By Cheryl Pellerin DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, November 12, 2015 — In fighting over the past 24 hours, Iraqi Kurdish forces supported by coalition advisors and a coalition air campaign are working to cut the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's main communication line between Raqqa and Mosul, the Pentagon press secretary said today.
Targeting Highway 47 over Sinjar Mountain from the air and the Kurdish peshmerga ground operation will degrade ISIL’s ability to funnel fighters and equipment into Iraq, and it will help disrupt funding methods for their terrorist activities, Peter Cook told defense reporters here.
“This is another example of the pressure being applied to ISIL across multiple fronts,” he said, noting that since yesterday the coalition has conducted 36 airstrikes supporting the operation.
Cook said the larger operation is another front in the fight against ISIL, showing that pressure is being applied in many areas, including Iraq and Syria.
Good Time to Move
Peshmerga forces are carrying out the operation with the support of U.S. and coalition advisors, most of them behind the front lines, advising and working directly with peshmerga commanders to determine the best location for airstrikes, he added.
“This was an opportunity the Iraqi Kurdish forces saw right now, and working with the coalition, agreed that this was a good time to move on Sinjar Mountain and to try and cut off this particular supply line,” Cook said.
“Right now,” he added, “we're assessing how that fight is going.”
Fighters to Incirlik
Earlier this week, Cook announced that six F-15C fighter jets had arrived at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey in response to the Turkish government’s request for support in securing Turkish airspace. “Turkey is a NATO ally, a friend of the United States, and an important partner in the international coalition against ISIL,” he added.
Today, six more aircraft -- F-15E fighgters -- arrived at Incirlik, Cook said, joining manned and remotely piloted aircraft already conducting counter-ISIL missions from Incirlik alongside Turkish F-16s.
Turkey's role in counter-ISIL operations -- including hosting U.S. assets and participating in coalition counter-ISIL air operations, cooperating to reduce the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, and supporting the vetted Syrian opposition -- is critical to coalition efforts to bring stability to the region, Cook said.
After a year at Sinjar, Cook said, ISIL will be dug in and will have put defensive measures in place to try and hold ground.
“We do not expect that this is going to be an easy fight,” he said. “But we do have confidence in the Iraqi Kurdish forces there, who have shown their capability in the past, and with the support of the coalition -- particularly the air campaign -- we think this is an opportunity to deal ISIL a blow.”
Cook also said the Justice Department had just announced that “an Ohio man had been arrested and charged with one count of solicitation of a crime of violence, “specifically, the murder of U.S. service members here in the homeland on behalf of ISIL.”
The Defense Department takes seriously any threats against its service members, Cook said. “We will use every tool at our disposal, partnering with other agencies, to protect our men and women in uniform,” he added.