By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, November 21, 2015 — While U.S.-led coalition airstrikes enable local ground forces to push back Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant extremists in Iraq and Syria, a combination of factors has recently become been critical in the campaign, U.S. Central Command spokesman Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder said yesterday.
In a teleconference call with reporters here, Ryder outlined the counter-ISIL efforts in both countries from operational and strategic perspectives.
“Our [coalition] support to enable the indigenous ground forces -- by providing precision airstrikes, intelligence and advise-and assist support -- remains the right approach,” to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria, he said.
Ryder emphasized military power is just one critical component to the anti-ISIL strategy and, despite recent progress, work remains in what he called a whole-of-government and coalition effort.
“Ground forces have grown additional capability in part through our building partner capacity and train-and-equip efforts,” he said. “And we are, in turn, increasing our airstrikes.”
Another factor in the anti-ISIL success is a combination of coalition advising and assisting well-planned ground operations and providing local forces with precision-strike capability, Ryder said. Based on that approach, ISIL forces have “clearly lost ground” and are making tough resourcing decisions, he added.
Pressure, Persistence Paying Off
Indigenous ground forces’ use of “pressure and persistence” is impacting ISIL’s key supply routes, Ryder said.
Iraq’s security forces are pressuring ISIL in Beiji by consistently striking key command and control nodes, “to include ISIL leadership, logistics areas, and financing mechanisms such as oil collection and communications equipment,” he said.
And pressure from Syrian forces in the al Hasakah province on the Iraq-Syria border near al Hawl has significantly affected ISIL, Ryder added.
Coalition efforts in the past week have heavily involved several high-impact and long-planned operations with coalition airstrikes supporting Iraqi security forces’ counter attack on ISIL in Ramadi by degrading enemy oil fields, which is a source of its revenue, Ryder said.
The Peshmerga’s retaking and liberating Sinjar also cut off a major ISIL line of communication between Mosul and Raqqa, he added.
When Iraqi forces cleared Beiji and took back its terrain, it also diminished ISIL’s defense of Mosul, Ryder said.
OIR Marks Highest Weapons Use
From Nov. 10 to 17, the anti-ISIL effort conducted its highest weapon expenditure -- 980 -- over any seven-day timeframe during Operation Inherent Resolve, Ryder said, adding more than 8,200 airstrikes have been conducted since the air campaign began in August 2014.
The coalition conducted nearly 200 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria in the past week, with about 75 percent as dynamic strikes in support of indigenous ground forces, which, Ryder said, “destroyed [ISIL] weapons caches, staging areas, fighting positions, vehicles, equipment and weapons systems.”
The Centcom spokesman said in the last month, coalition forces have struck 20 ISIL headquarters buildings, more than 100 logistics areas, nearly 100 weapons caches, and ISIL oil supply points. “This is having an effect on the enemy and there is no doubt it's making it harder for [ISIL] to move much needed supplies and replacement fighters around the battlefield,” he said.
“It's shrinking the number of border crossings sites that ISIL relies on, which is helping curb the flow of foreign fighters,” Ryder added, “and it's crippling [ISIL’s] ability to access a number of its key resources of revenue.”