'Phase one' of IS fight complete, says US

'Phase one' of IS fight complete, says US
The first phase in the US-led coalition's fight against IS, to stop the group from making territorial gains, has been successfully completed, a coalition spokesman said on Wednesday.
2 min read
14 April, 2016
The Iraqi army with coalition support has regained vast areas from IS [AFP]

The US-led coalition campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria has successfully completed its first "phase" of operations, a US military spokesman said on Wednesday.

"A year and a half ago, we saw images of [IS] convoys moving freely into Mosul and throughout Iraq," said Colonel Steve Warren, the coalition's Baghdad-based spokesman.

"Those days are gone. Our enemy has been weakened and we are now working to fracture him."

Warren told Pentagon reporters that the initial step was to "degrade" the IS group by stopping it from making additional territorial gains.

"We are now in phase two, which is to dismantle this enemy," he added.

During the next phase of operations, the US-led coalition hopes to enable trained and equipped "partners on the ground" to fragment IS forces, isolate their strongholds and liberate areas under their control, Warren explained.

"We've seen that with effective training, proper equipment and devastating coalition air power, Iraqi forces can win," Warren said. "We've seen this in Tikrit, Baiji, Sinjar, Ramadi and most recently in Hit," he added, referring to liberated Iraqi areas.

The coalition spokesman also mentioned gains against IS in Syria, especially with the liberation of areas in northeast Syria and close to the border with Turkey.

"These most recent gains are the result of successful Syrian Arab Coalition and Syrian Democratic Force operations to stabilise the forward line of troops and further fragment the enemy's position between Mosul and Raqqa," Warren said.

The final phase of the campaign, according to the spokesman, is to ensure the IS group is dealt "a lasting defeat", primarily by enabling local forces to prevent a resurgence of jihadist influence.

On Tuesday, US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said IS' ranks had been pared back in Iraq and Syria to their lowest level since Washington began monitoring the group.

"While [IS] can still put together some complex attacks, they have not been able to take hold of any key terrain for almost a year now," Warren said.

"We've struck leaders, supply lines, fighters, industrial bases and funding sources in both Iraq and Syria."