The US has said “tangible progress” has been made against Islamic State in Iraq as the dreaded terror group is driven out of the 40 per cent of its previously-controlled territory.
“Iraq’s security forces, backed by coalition military airpower and advice and assistance of coalition militaries from around the world, has been effective in driving IS out of territory that they previously controlled,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
“We know that ISIS has been driven out of about 40 per cent of the populated areas that ISIS previously controlled in Iraq. That’s tangible progress,” he said.
Earnest’s remarks came hours after capital Baghdad was rocked by one of the deadliest ISIS bombings targeting markets and a restaurant in Shiite-dominated neighborhoods, killing at least 69 people.
Noting that the coalition is committed to keep up the momentum and continue to pressure IS, Earnest also said it will provide the Iraqi central government necessary resources to rebuild those areas that the terror outfit had taken over.
“We know that in places like Ramadi, IS didn’t just occupy that community-they essentially destroyed it. And rebuilding that infrastructure and rebuilding those communities so that people feel confident in moving back home is going to be critical to our longer-term success of bringing some stability to that region of the world,” he said.
“The important financial contributions that have been made by countries around the world are also an important part of our strategy, but they’re all predicated on the Iraqi people and the international community having confidence in the effectiveness of the Iraqi central government,” Earnest added.
He said the US troops in Iraq are to degrade and ultimately destroy IS.
“They are focused on missions that involve protecting the embassy, carrying out military air operations against ISIS targets, in some cases providing training and advice and assistance to Iraqi security forces, and there’s a small number of special operators that have been organised into these expeditionary forces that can carry out raids against senior IS figures,” Earnest said.
“We’ve been very clear about the mission that US forces in Iraq are pursuing,” he said, adding that the US strongly condemns Tuesday’s IS bombings.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the victims and their families. These string of attacks by IS is latest reminder of the danger that this group poses to all Iraqis and the importance of Iraqi leaders from all communities, working together against a common enemy,” he said.
Earnest said the US has been encouraged over the last year and a half by the efforts that the Iraqi government has undertaken to unify the country and pursue the kind of inclusive governing agenda that can inspire the confidence of Iraq’s diverse population that the central government in Baghdad is looking out for their best interests.
“We believe that will have a corresponding impact on the effectiveness and resilience of Iraq’s security forces,” he said.