The last few weeks have not been good for the advancement of ISIL’s goals in Iraq and Syria.
At a recent press conference, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter confirmed that key ISIL leaders were killed by U.S. forces in March, including so-called “minister of war” Abu Omar al-Shishani and Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, also known as Hami Imam.
Al-Qaduli, Secretary Carter said, served as a finance minister, who was also responsible for certain external affairs and plots. “He was a well-known terrorist within ISIL’s ranks dating back to its earliest iteration as al-Qaida in Iraq,” Mr. Carter said. “The removal of this ISIL leader will hamper the organization’s ability for them to conduct operations both inside and outside of Iraq and Syria.”
Defense Secretary Carter said that the anti-ISIL coalition, in partnership with local forces, is putting relentless pressure on the terrorist group, noting that the successful capture of the Syrian town of Shaddadi from ISIL earlier this year severed the main artery between Syria and northern Iraq, making it much harder for ISIL’s forces to travel between Raqqa and Mosul – a key step in the campaign “to collapse ISIL’s parent tumor in Iraq and Syria.”
Another set-back for ISIL occurred when Syrian government forces, with the help of Russian air power, drove ISIL from the ancient town of Palmyra, one of the few times that Russian airpower was used against ISIL, instead of against anti-Assad rebel forces. Pentagon Spokesperson Peter Cook welcomed the defeat for ISIL, but stressed that the Assad regime is the primary cause of the Syrian civil war, and that its focus right now should be “trying to end that civil war and by engaging in the diplomatic process that’s currently under way” in Geneva.
Defense Secretary Carter said defeating ISIL militarily in Iraq and Syria, while necessary, is not sufficient: “We must also destroy ISIL’s metastases around the world.”
Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to that point when he stood with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel after the terror attack in Brussels: “All of us representing countless nationalities – have a message for [ISIL]. . .We will not be intimidated. We will not be deterred. And we will come back with greater resolve, with greater strength, and we will not rest until we have eliminated your nihilistic beliefs and cowardice from the face of this Earth.”