In recent months, the strategy to ultimately defeat ISIL has begun to reap rewards. Part of that strategy included deploying more U.S. special operations forces, expanding training efforts for groups fighting ISIL, acquiring better intelligence, and improving targeting. “It is fair to say,” said Secretary of State John Kerry, “that our persistence, our unity, our concerted commitment from every different country. . .is all making a difference.”
Recent successes include the recapturing of Ramadi, Bayji, and Sinjar by Iraqi forces. In Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces have retaken thousands of kilometers of territory from ISIL and cut off their supply routes. This Iraqi city of Tikrit has been liberated, where more than 90 percent of the population has been able to return and begin to rebuild their homes and lives.
Some 10,000 Coalition airstrikes assisted in making these victories possible. These sorties are hammering ISIL’s heavy weapons, its training camps, its oil fields, supply routes, cache sites and infrastructure. In addition, more than 90 mid-level or high-level leaders of ISIL have been killed since last May. These sustained efforts are hurting ISIL’s finances as evidenced by reports that ISIL has had to cut the pay to their fighters by 50 percent.
Ultimately, said Secretary Kerry, the war against ISIL is going to be won through our local partners on the ground. Coalition members have trained nearly 20,000 regular Iraqi and Peshmerga soldiers as well as more than a thousand Iraqi police officers.
The challenge now is to relentlessly push ahead with this strategy, giving ISIL no safe havens in which to hide. That requires doubling down on choking off ISIL’s revenue sources. Coalition members also need to provide sufficient funding to stabilize newly regained territory.
Beyond financial support, the government of Iraq needs assistance with removing thousands of lethal explosives that have been left behind by the terrorists. And in Syria, diplomatic efforts to find a political solution to the crisis must produce results. At the same time the international community must address the pressing humanitarian needs of the Syrian and Iraqi people.
Through a sustained military effort and financial and humanitarian contributions by every member of the Counter-ISIL coalition, said Secretary Kerry, “I have no doubt we are going to degrade and destroy [ISIL].”