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OIR General: Coalition Pressure Causing ISIL’s ‘Caliphate’ to Unravel

WASHINGTON, June 23, 2016 — The significantly increased pressure that U.S.-led coalition and local forces are putting on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s fighters is causing the terrorist group’s “caliphate” to unravel and crumble, a senior Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve official told reporters today.

Via teleconference from Baghdad, British army Maj. Gen. Doug Chalmers, deputy commander for strategy and sustainment, updated the Pentagon reporters on the campaign to defeat ISIL.

Harnessing Coalition Power

Iraq security forces are making greater progress with increased coalition-partner capability and capacity and by “harnessing the power of the 65-nation international coalition,” Chalmers said.

Ramadi’s fall to ISIL fighters about a year ago became a “high-water mark of the ISIL expansion,” Chalmers said. But since that time, he added, “we’ve seen the tide turning on [ISIL]. Not only have their advances been stopped, the terrain they have briefly controlled has been taken back by the Iraqi security forces and by Syrian opposition.”

Chalmers said the coalition is striking ISIL on multiple fronts: its fighters on the front lines and command and control operators, ISIL leaders, its industrial base, financial systems, communication networks and its system to bring foreign fighters in to fill ranks in both Iraq and Syria.

Enemy Faces Multi-Directional Fight

“We are forcing them to fight in multiple locations and in multiple directions,” Chalmers said.

As coalition support accelerates, he said, airstrikes in support of Iraqi ground advances continue to provide overwhelming combat power “at the right time and place” on the battlefield, the general said.

Increased training for Iraqi police officers will add to the existing 23,000 trained Iraqi forces, Chalmers said, adding that training also will soon expand to the Iraq border security force.

“Not only will the Iraqi security forces be able to liberate their territory,” he said. “They will be better-set to be able to hold it and secure the population within it.”

Chalmers said the Iraqi forces’ increased confidence, as they face ISIL fighters on the battlefield and defeat them, is likely the most important factor in their increased success against the terrorist organization.

“The recent advances that they've made in both the Tigris and Euphrates River Valleys at the same time … is deeply impressive,” he said. “Not just in fighting terms, but also in sustainment terms.”

Counter-ISIL Fight Also Progresses in Syria

In Syria, the fight against ISIL is showing similar trends in the face of efforts by partnered opposition forces, Chalmers said. “The multiethnic components of the Syrian Democratic Forces are united against [ISIL]. We've seen opposition forces in the northeast, near Mara, and in the southeast … remain focused on defeating [ISIL] and removing its influence from their homelands.”

The coalition advise-and-assist programs that support local ground forces are proving to increase their effectiveness in combat, he added.

With ISIL wanting to mount attacks against the military forces involved in the ongoing fight and against innocent civilian populations, the fight ahead will continue to be challenging, Chalmers said, but he added that the counter-ISIL campaign is progressing, and a defeat of ISIL in Iraq and Syria is “inevitable.”

And because of the increased pressure on ISIL in both countries, Chalmers said, operations “in Manbij, Fallujah and the Tigris River Valley are shaping the battlefield and establishing the conditions for the two big future fights: Raqqa and Mosul.”

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)

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