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“Since the campaign began its mission to defeat ISIL [the outdated acronym for the Islamic State] eight months ago, coalition forces have carried out 330 airstrikes in the Baiji area,” the report stated.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