‘Strategy to defeat Islamic State is working,’ US Department of Defense claims

This Department of Defense news article (reproduced in full below) on the status of the fight against the Islamic State couldn’t have been more poorly timed. Published on May 15, the same day that the Islamic State overran the government center in Ramadi, the report provides a pollyannaish view from Brigadier General Thomas D. Weidley of the US military’s air campaign and the Iraqi military’s fight against the Islamic State. Weidley is the chief of staff for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led coalition that was put together to “defeat and dismantle” the Islamic State.

Weidley described Ramadi as “contested” and claimed that Iraqi forces repelled most attacks in the city when in reality the Islamic State took control of the government center and most neighborhoods in Ramadi by May 15. By May 17, the Islamic State was in full control of Ramadi and overran the Anbar Operations Command and 8th Brigade Headquarters at Camp Ar Ramadi. Iraqi forces are said to be in complete disarray in the Fallujah-Ramadi corridor.

Weidley’s description of the situation in Baiji was just as overly optimistic. He claimed that while the Islamic State breached the perimeter and has had “episodic control of some refinery facilities to continue attacking Iraqi security forces,” Iraqi forces are regaining the initiative inside and outside of the refinery. In reality, the Islamic State controls upwards of 80 percent of the refinery and has besieged an Iraqi force holed up there. The Islamic State is in full control of the city of Baiji and the surrounding areas, the the Iraqi military is unable or unwilling to send reinforcements.

Astonishingly, Weidley cites statistics of Coalition airstrikes in Ramadi and Baiji to bolster his case.

“Since the beginning of [Operation Inherent Resolve], the coalition has provided precision air support for the [Iraqi forces] with approximately 420 airstrikes in the Fallujah-Ramadi area,” Weidley noted.

“Since the campaign began its mission to defeat ISIL [the outdated acronym for the Islamic State] eight months ago, coalition forces have carried out 330 airstrikes in the Baiji area,” the report stated.

Ironically, Weidley is detailing just how anemic and ineffective the US air campaign has been in both Anbar province and Baiji. Despite the estimated 420 strikes in the Ramadi-Fallujah area and 330 more in Baiji, the Islamic State was able to organize its assault forces, advance, and overrun Iraqi security forces in both areas.

Full text of DoD article, titled Strategy to Defeat ISIL is Working, Military Official Says:

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2015 – The coalition and Iraqi security forces strategy to defeat and dismantle the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant extremist group is clear and on track, the chief of staff of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve said today.

Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Thomas D. Weidley briefed reporters via teleconference from Southwest Asia on Iraq’s battle against ISIL forces.

Beiji and its oil refinery remain contested in a dynamic and fluid battle between Iraqi security forces and ISIL, Weidley said. Since ISIL extremists recently breached the refinery’s perimeter, they have maintained “episodic control of some refinery facilities to continue attacking Iraqi security forces,” he said.

Though ISIL has placed continuous and sometimes significant amounts of pressure at the refinery, he added, Iraqi forces are working continually to improve their position at the refinery and on the route leading to it.

ISIL Gains Not Sustained

In spite of ISIL’s localized attacks, its gains have proved to be short-lived, the general emphasized.
“Since Tikrit’s liberation in early April,” Weidley noted, “the coalition has led 176 airstrikes in Beiji area, destroying numerous fighting positions, mobility platforms, improvised explosive devices, weapons caches, fighters and other military capabilities.”

Since the campaign began its mission to defeat ISIL eight months ago, coalition forces have carried out 330 airstrikes in the Beiji area, he added.

“The coalition support-to-ground forces … [have] been the catalyst for hundreds and hundreds of square kilometers, key cities and infrastructure and critical lines of communication in both Iraq and Syria that have been lost by [ISIL],” Weidley said. “And we believe this will continue.”

Ramadi Remains Contested

After a period of relative stability in the tactical situation in Ramadi, the general said, ISIL executed a complex attack on Iraqi security forces today. While Iraqi forces repel most attacks, he added, ISIL has made some gains, and Ramadi remains contested as the terrorists attempt to consolidate and defend some of their recent, temporary gains east and south of the city.

“Since the beginning of [Operation Inherent Resolve], the coalition has provided precision air support for the [Iraqi forces] with approximately 420 airstrikes in the Fallujah-Ramadi area,” the general said.

Over the last month, he added, the coalition has conducted 165 airstrikes in support of Iraqi security forces in Ramadi that have destroyed operational resources and facilities such as ISIL-controlled buildings, fighting positions, and armored and technical vehicles.

Advise-and-assist Planners

The coalition has conducted 17 engagements in the last three days, he said, and advise-and-assist planners are working closely with the Iraqi security forces to control critical infrastructure and lines of communication.

Weidley said Iraqi forces simultaneously are battling ISIL in four areas in addition to Beiji and Ramadi.

“We firmly believe [ISIL] is on the defensive throughout Iraq and Syria, attempting to hold previous gains, while conducting small-scale, localized harassing attacks [and] occasional complex or high-profile attacks to feed their information and propaganda apparatus,” he said.

The fight is a long-term effort, Weidley said, and the coalition is committed to defeating ISIL in both Iraq and Syria.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal.

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37 Comments

  • “The fight is a long-term effort, Weidley said, and the coalition is committed to defeating ISIL in both Iraq and Syria.”

    That’s the “out” when things go badly — “Well, it’s a long-term effort.” It’s a statement devoid of content. Reminds me of John Maynard Keynes: In the long run, we’ll all be dead.

  • M3fd2002 says:

    There’s going to be an unpresidented amount of books coming out in the years after president obama leaves office and they won’t paint a pretty picture. He will retire to his mansion in Hawaii and relive his accomplishments in his own mind with his celebrity pseudo friends. Most professional officers (military, diplomatic, intelligence and even correspondent) will not speak now for obvious reasons. My humble opinion is that not just President Obama but his entire staff/administration are way over their heads foreign and domestic. Its not fatal, but it will take awhile to get things in order. I’ll preempt anyone who thinks this might be prejudicial; It’s result based. I would wager (gentlemans) that the world’s street opinion has been greatly disappointed in president Obama’s tenure.

    • Aml says:

      It’s sad people like you exist. To act as though this is all on Obama is ignorant at best, blatantly dishonest at worst.

      Criticize the Obama administration, by all means! I do! But everything today goes back to 2003 and the repeated mistakes that were made from the very beginning.

      • m3fd2002 says:

        @Aml
        Fair enough. One could argue that this goes back to September 11, 2001. It seems that many people conveniently forget that 911 was the seminal event that initiated the US’s kinetic operations in the Middle East. Yes, invading Iraq had little to do with that attack. But the US population wanted a pound of flesh for that attack. In hind site, the Iraq invasion and more importantly the occupation were a major mistake.
        @Fred
        I agree with you. Obama’s intentions were/are well placed. But the results have been more than disappointing. It might be best to let the whole region re-align in the next few decades and deal with it at arms length. But, both Iran and Arab states are going to have strategic weapons. It changes the calculus a bit.

      • AlFromBayShore says:

        You’ve lost me. Yeah, in retrospect the 2003 invasion was a bad idea simply because of the belief that the following administration would “follow up” and fill the vacuum. Obama had no interest in that, and the fact that he lied and claimed to be leaving behind a “stable Iraq”, speaks volumes. He does not get a pass on this one. And “Blame Bush” is past its shelf life. Invading Iraq was a bad idea but pulling the troops out was worse for if had not been done, the Islamic State would have no place in Iraq.

      • Joe says:

        Do yourself a favor – and look up the monthly Iraqi civilian violent death count when Bush handed the reigns to Obama.

        The only thing more wasteful than the time we spent in Iraq, was the act of throwing it all away for a political talking point.

      • Marcus says:

        It is all on Obama. When a person snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, it would be his fault.

        • Aml says:

          Victory? I’m sorry but the Iraq that Obama inherited cannot be called a victory in any way whatsoever. The break out of violence between Sunni and Shiite was inevitable without a ground up reconciliation between them by the Iraqi government and that simply was not going to happen.

    • Fred says:

      I’ve been a long time defender of the president’s foreign policy. I didn’t vote for him, but I don’t think he did such a terrible job overall- his policy of limiting our engagement in the Middle East is much better than the alternative. I liked his Libya intervention and still stand by it- I think the alternative could very well have been worse (look at Syria), and the Libyans had several years of relative peace and a chance at making it work, which they squandered.

      That said, his Iran deal is a fiasco in the making and his strategy against ISIS seems to be a failure. He definitely does seem to be in over his head- but then, so was Bush, and everyone else. None of us know what to do to “solve” the long war.

      • irebukeu says:

        I tend to agree with your comments except for Libya. I was and still am against the intervention in Libya. I think congressional permission should have been asked for and I think KIADaffy should have been left alone to fight his Arab springers.
        I do like the so called “lead from behind” approach that values the American taxpayers money and protects American soldiers lives.

        “War is too serious a matter to entrust to military men.”

      • Ojo says:

        How do you fit several years between the 2011 intervention (March 2011 to October 2011) and spring 2015?

        The country was already coming apart at the seams (Civil War) in 2014.

        Benghazi in September 2012 showed us what was coming.

        At best you can argue a few years and by sleight of hand double it to several years.

    • Jo Flemings says:

      I agree Obama is inept at military command, and I too, question the wisdom of some of the guys at the top of the brass pile. Tragically most of our experienced and clued-in leadership has retired or been shown the proverbial door. HOWEVER, there are still a number of experienced fighting men in service coming up through the officer corps and Obama is on short final out of office. There is reason to hope there.

      ‘Long term effort’ is code for we are not really interested in fully engaging here yet. We will let these people work this out for themselves for awhile, and advise, shoot, move and communicate from the sidelines while we test our very expensive space age toys in play. When the time comes, and it is not yet, we will blast a lot of people into the presence of Allah in one fell mechanical maneuver and take whatever we think is rightfully ours. That is kind of how we roll.

      If the people who can play nice in the sandbox don’t get a hold of their countries in the middle east, the whole place is going to become an oily ocean of glass. There might be a few people we can trust making an effort to pull it out- they don’t seem to be making it into the news or editorial write ups here ( and Bill this one is definitely more editorial than news, but I like your work a lot, so I’ll let this one go this time- yellow card.) It sounds to me like we are thinking we might develop a sense of mutual respect for the bad ass, oldsoldier dude from Iran… and that might be a worthwhile thing to contemplate- the ugly past notwithstanding. Of course, no one has a pristine white five-gallon hat these days…

      Leadership with cojones- now that is what we really need. Someone like Stanley McChrystal only maybe a little less ‘pathological’ scary and stuff. Someone who knows how to fight and win, who cares about what is right and does it without real regard for politics, but with some public persona savvy— The former Supe at West Point would have been my first choice but I think he retired- :o(

      • Jo Flemings says:

        My error above- I missed that this is a blogpost- (I know, duh, right?) I was scrolling through news and jumped into Threat Matrix for the headlines, without realizing it IS editorial- a blog, not necessarily a news feed. (My apologies Mr. Roggio!)

    • Dan says:

      Fully agree.

  • Albert Reilingh says:

    The Iraqi Army will be rolling into Mosul any day now.

    • timothy J Blair says:

      You must be the dumbest SOB I have ever come across. After loosing Baiji, the largest refinery in Iraq, do you actually believe the US trained, US equipped, and US led Iraqi Army can advance even an inch beyond Tikrit. CIA must be run by a bunch of moron and useless people like you. You see, Tikrit battle was just a decoy by ISIS to lure as many shiite militias as possible to come to Tikrit. The much bigger prize was Ramadi. Sure enough, Ramadi is now firmly in ISIS’s grip. I have said it a million times, ISIS is fighting a religious war. It was proven time and time again that US cannot defeat these religious fanatics. I have had enough with your bullshit victories. First, against the Taliban, after 12 years, US ran away leaving their equipment and weapons behind. Second, against the Alqaeda Iraq, after 8 years, against US ran away ditching everything and leaving behind all weapons to the insurgents. And NOW, against the baddest, the most brutal, the most vicious, the most efficient army ever known in the history of Mankind, you think you can win. Sure you can kill them. It’s not like they are immortal enemy. BUT more and more recruits seem to appear in different battle fronts. I may not live to see the outcome of this war, but I am very and extremely sure that the son of ISIS will evetually come out the winner because the are prepared to fight a 100 years war. Whereas the US soldiers can only stand a 12 months stint. Anything longer than 12 months, it will drive every soldier crazy and they either turn their guns on their comrades or commit suicide……what a sad end…..

      • RT says:

        These guys can be beat. Their recruiting will start dropping off if they start having some real setbacks. If the US had two full strength divisions (or equivalent brigades) in there we could roll these guys up in no time. But Obama would never do that, due to the fact he would have to do an about face. He was mistaken on pulling out along with everyone else who wanted it. Last time I checked we are still in Germany, Japan and Korea. Once you are in you are stuck from then on. The lesson is don’t invade another country unless you prepared for a long term occupation.

        • Marinello says:

          Beat IS with two divisions ? Are you serious ?

        • irebukeu says:

          What do the divisions do after the islamic state goes underground after taking some heavy losses? Do we just leave? or do we establish bases and supply routes to supply those bases. and wait for terrible news about tractor trailer bombs and tunnel bombs. I dont want to see tunnel bomb videos of American FOBs explode from 7 different angles all in HD.
          So far I give Obama an F+ on Syria and C on Iraq. I give him a solid A for valuing the lives of the american combat soldier.
          Protecting American lives is job number 1

          Do you really equate Iraq to Germany, Japan and Korea. We never occupied South Korea as an occupation army nor did congress authorize the use of force on North Korea. Japan Attacked us in a brilliant surprise attack that caught us with our pants around our ankles, never having declared war upon us. Germany did declare war upon us. Those were wars that had to be fought. Korea should not have been fought without congress giving the red light. Iraq should have never been invaded.

          The lesson is don’t invade another country unless you are prepared to bury thousands of dead Americans, care for the tens of thousands of wounded ones and then be ready for a long term occupation and rebuild with casualties and with no end in sight..
          By the way, we are 18 trillion in debt. Where does the money come from to pay for these occupations. There is no surplus in the budget.

          Bin Laden’s goal was not to crush the American army on the battlefield but to crush the American economy. Eventually he settled on just increasing the cost of the commute to work for the American voter

          Use the drones, let the Sunnis and Shia fight it out and work from the shadows. Let the Iranian backed militias get videoed from 7 angles.

      • Joe says:

        “It was proven time and time again that US cannot defeat these religious fanatics.”

        LMAO. What planet do you live on? The US absolutely routed these religious fanatics in Fallujah and Ramadi, and kept them irrelevant for another half decade until our naive commander in chief decided to take his thumb off of them to score campaign talking points.

        • Oberron says:

          Tactical successes is not the same as winning and AQI threw the US out of Ramadi several times. It wasn’t till the Awakening that Ramadi became relatively safe and it was at best a tactical victory Maliki threw away. Obama was right to pull out, he was wrong to get back in and serve as Iran’s Air Force and subsidize Iran’s campaign.

          Winning battles is not winning wars. Convincing your opponent to surrender wins wars. If your opponent won’t surrender and keeps throwing forces into the field to challenge you, you aren’t winning.

      • Jo Flemings says:

        “…And NOW, against the baddest, the most brutal, the most vicious, the most efficient army ever known in the history of Mankind, you think you can win?…”

        What kind of koolaid are you drinking? ISIS is not the baddest or the most brutal or the most vicious or the most efficient army known to mankind. I think there have been many more fighters in history who come in closer to the top ten than ISIS. Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Napoleon, William Wallace, William Tecumseh Sherman… I think there are others who rank above ISIS in soldier esteem.

        AND they are nothing new. They are off the same ‘bat channel’ as their ancestors- and their ways and means are the 2.0 version with cameras- not at all advanced or new. This is the Crusades round six, BUT now the Christians or even the post-Christians, neo-pagans, or secular humanists need to win.

        The problem in Iraq is frankly the Iraqis. And I am sad to think we will eventually kill a lot of them, while they will also kill a lot of us. Duh, this is a war, and a long one; until it becomes total, then it will be very short and very ugly. And our consciences will likely lead us to occupy the former caliphates of the Levant etc..

        ISIS does not have an upper hand because ISIS is not a sustainable 21st century evil empire, its a 14th century evil empire attempting to impose itself on a 21st century world, being played as some kind of other pawn (not clearly understood.) They won’t last five years, their own people won’t put up with them. They have the internet.

        Barak Obama’s ‘ROE’ of not really getting our hands publicly dirty anymore is a very short term PR/marketing tactic, and does not really reflect reality on the ground or in mercenary (American mega-money advisors and security companies) circles, and it is also short-lived. The bad guys are undone, it is just a matter of time, money and lives- hopefully our leadership will make shorter work of it. (Very distasteful and not what we like to do, but seems to become daily more clearly absolutely necessary….kinda like Judith and Holfernes.)

      • jay says:

        ”And NOW, against the baddest, the most brutal, the most vicious, the most efficient army ever known in the history of Mankind, you think you can win. Sure you can kill them. It’s not like they are immortal enemy. BUT more and more recruits seem to appear in different battle fronts. I may not live to see the outcome of this war, but I am very and extremely sure that the son of ISIS will evetually come out the winner because the are prepared to fight a 100 years war. ”

        And getting their asses handed to them by the Kurds in Syria. LOLOLOL

    • Jimmy says:

      Yup, any day now……

  • Oberron says:

    Vietnam all over again. The line troops know what to do, the officer corps doesn’t and aren’t being held accountable. If this were WW2 Weildley would have been sacked and replaced with someone who can deliver results or be replaced in turn till someone who could deliver could be found and promoted.

    • Jo Flemings says:

      ‘Vietnam all over again’ is a very tired refrain, this is not in any way, shape, fashion or form like Vietnam with the exception of the way the President behaves and his ineptitude as a military commander. Vietnam was jungle war, and we had a bajillion guys on the ground. It was a terrorist/guerilla war where the population was not clearly non-combatant or compliant. Now this one is like that too, however, this one is also very different in terms of the weaponry and the technological potential for tactics and strategy.

      Our main problem is that the US population is not a unified voice calling for this war to be declared, decisive, total and accomplished- because that is not going to look humanitarian on any tv screen or conscience. But that is what it will take to win,and to end this in the middle east for at least a generation.

  • jay says:

    If we have launched in excess of 750 airstrikes in those areas
    and the Islamic state has still advanced in Ramadi and Baiji.
    Then either the bombing has had minimal effect or it has stopped
    ISIS from completely slaughtering the Iraqi security forces and rampaging
    East/south to Baghdad and beyond.

  • J House says:

    it is sad that the American people have to go to media bloggers to determine what is happening on the ground in Iraq, and more astonishingly, that the lies of the White House and Pentagon are exposed here in this report.
    Where is the White House and Pentagon Press Corp? Where is the fourth estate as our leadership lies to us about the war effort?
    Imagine if this was 1972…

    • Jo Flemings says:

      Icasualties. org is a decent resource for updates on hot areas, and a lot of what is in the sidebar on that site never makes the news on major networks. That gives a read on what is being accomplished day to day in battles in all areas of conflict. I find it helpful for a pulse point in Afghanistan.

  • Rosario says:

    If the Army is lying to itself about Iraq, what are we to make of what is going on in the south china sea? A pentagon full of yes men/women choosing their careers over the national security of the US does not bode well for the USA…

  • J house says:

    The President has been elected twice and has been in office six years. He knew what he was ‘inheriting’ before he ran for office. In fact, just three years ago, he said Iraq was now secure and on its own, thanks to his efforts in training Iraq to defend itself.
    Furthermore, his misadventure in Libya has been a national security and humanitarian disaster, hands down. Europe and America will reap the brutal terrorist attacks that will result from so much weaponry being confiscated in Libya. That there was no post-Qaddafi security plan to implement in Libya was just as disastrous as Bush’s Iraq plan.
    The President and his uninformed minions in the White House deserve every bit of criticism for this debacle.
    Sadly, the fourth estate is now a fifth column in this country.

  • Buzz says:

    “Will nothing rouse my country” ?

    • Arjuna says:

      WMD will, which is why they’re waiting to deploy them.

      • irebukeu says:

        By WMD I assume you mean nuclear weapons
        I’d hate to see the nation suffer another 70,000+ casualties to stop a mustard gas threat

  • AZ says:

    Strategy what strategy? In order to have a strategy you must have National Will. We have neither and that goes back to when the cold war “ended” in 90’s.

    We never had the National Will to defeat the enemy. The Arabs know that which is why they still annoy us. Bush Jr. telling us on 12 Sept 01 that the best thing for Americans to do was to continue going shopping wasn’t a strategy nor inspired any National Will.

    Don’t start a fight unless you vastly outnumber the enemy to control the ground.

    “Caesar really knew these people best (we now call them Arabs). I now know that a difficult situation is to come on you. If you do not attack them with great numbers, you will have no chance” Battle of Yarmouk; Roman General, Bannes, August 636 AD

    Nothings has changed there.

    Air power isn’t a strategy to win wars unless you plan on using nukes which we won’t. Air power doesn’t control the ground we learn that in WII but then forgot it in Vietnam.

    “…missile and air strikes can achieve a political aim by compelling an adversary to make concessions, but only the land forces can actually control territory, and therefore it is these which are essential in subduing opponents…” Major General Aleksandr Rogovoy

    Air Power is like cocaine to an addict. Feels great and makes you feel powerful but then the effects goes away and you’re back into reality going no where.

    The three political parties we have, the best that private money can buy, don’t care either. If they had we would have raised taxes, sold war bonds, re-instated the draft, re-instituted the anti-war profiteering act, and invaded with millions of troops with little restrictions and stayed.

    And if Bush Jr. had read “Banking on Baghdad” and “Lawrence of Arabia” he would not have invaded in the first place.

  • Charlie says:

    When we went downtown, anyone with an understanding of the situation knew it would take a 10 to 20 year occupation and 50 year presence to straighten out Iraq enough for us to leave a functioning nation state. The disintegration of Iraq was foreseeable and entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, domestic politics trumped common sense when we went in and when we got out.

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis