At one point, the violent extremist group ISIL, also known as DAESH, controlled about one third of the territory of Iraq, and much the same in Syria. Supremely confident after their rapid conquest of these lightly defended territories, ISIL trumpeted to the world its conviction that its fighters are unstoppable. As recently as last autumn, ISIL boasted that it would soon seize Baghdad.
Now ISIL is on the defensive in both Iraq and Syria, and under constant attack by local ground forces as well as Coalition airstrikes. The U.S.-led Global Coalition to Counter Daesh is providing strong air support, having already conducted over 3000 airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, taking out thousands of fighters, numerous commanders, vehicles and tanks, artillery and mortar positions, training camps and bunkers in Iraq and Syria.
Last summer, as part of its attack on Iraq, ISIL captured the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit. True to its brutal reputation, upon securing the city, ISIL began to commit unspeakable atrocities against the civilian population. But their triumph is now under siege.
On March 2nd, the Iraqi Army launched a military offensive to take back Tikrit. But as the offensive began to stall in recent days, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi requested and received support from the anti-ISIL Coalition. On March 25th, in coordination with the Government of Iraq and Iraqi Security Forces through our Joint Operation Center in Baghdad, the Coalition joined the battle for Tikrit by launching a series of air strikes against ISIL positions.
“ISIL is now on the defensive in Iraq,” said State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki. “As Iraqi forces increasingly mount offensive operations, they must do so under Iraqi command, with concerted efforts to protect local populations, and secure the human rights of all Iraqi citizens as mandated under the Iraqi constitution and as Prime Minister Abadi and other Iraq leaders have pledged,” she said.
“The United States and the Iraqi Government will continue to work together on our shared goal of defeating ISIL and training a professional national security force that can protect all the Iraqi people against extremist threats.”