- The Washington Times
Friday, May 15, 2015

Amid local reports that the Islamic State is making gains in Ramadi, U.S. officials on Friday maintained that the terrorist group is on the defensive and that any victories will be “short-lived and highly costly” for the terrorist fighters.

Police sources said that the radical terror group’s flag was flying over a government compound only hours after six suicide car bombs went off in the heart of the city, Reuters reported.

Brig. Gen. Thomas Weidley, chief of staff of the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, acknowledged that there was a “complex attack” by the Islamic State on Iraqi Security Forces in Ramad, but said that he could not confirm the reports on social media showing the government compound under the control of terrorist forces.

He said the attack was not a setback and was similar to previous attacks by the Islamic State, also known as Daesh, that the Iraqi forces have been able to repel.

“Daesh does remain on the defensive,” he said to reporters at the Pentagon via phone from Southwest Asia. “We will see episodic, temporary successes, but again these typically don’t materialize into long-term gains.”

Reuters reported that an armored bulldozer bursted through blast walls as the Islamic State pushed into the city, which is roughly 60 miles west of Baghdad.

A statement released by the Islamic State group said that control of the government compound was obtained after “eliminating the apostates” inside.

Brig. Gen. Weidley could not give a percentage for how much of the city is under Islamic State control, but said Iraqi Security Forces and local police retain control of “most” of the city.

He said he expects to continue seeing these types of “harassing” attacks for the Islamic State to use in propaganda efforts to recruit more fighters.

The fight at Ramadi is not the only one where the Islamic State is having some success. Brig. Gen. Weidley said a key oil refinery in Baiji remains contested, with several hundred Islamic State recruits fighting to breach the perimeter and maintain “episodic control” of parts of the refinery.

Despite these, Brig. Gen. Weidley detailed several instances where Iraqi forces have had great success in driving out the Islamic State, including Kobani and Sinjar Mountain, as well as a 25 square mile area south of Tikrit that the Peshmerga secured in just two days. 

He also said a change in the Islamic State’s behavior signifies it is on the defensive. While fighters would wear uniforms, display the group’s flag and travel in large groups last summer, recruits are now more conspicuous, traveling in smaller groups and in civilian vehicles.

“We believe across Iraq and Syria that Daesh is losing,” Brig. Gen. Weidley said. “We’re going to continue to see these episodic attacks, harassing attacks, sometimes complex attacks, sometime high profile attacks in order to further their messages.”

Tikrit, who was liberated from the Islamic State in April and remains secure, is another success story for the American-trained Iraqi Security Force, aided by U.S. air support, Brig. Gen. Weidley said.

“This is a great example of the power of the coalition combined with Iraqi Security Forces able to liberate Tikrit on short order,” he said.

The city is still uninhabitable about a month after fighting ended since essential services in the city have not been restored and improvised explosives remain around the city. Brig. Gen. Weidley said local forces are working to clear the undetonated explosives so the population can return to the city.

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