U.S. Commander in Iraq: Some Say the Military Campaign Against ISIS 'Is Moving Too Fast'

By Susan Jones | August 11, 2016 | 5:28am EDT
Army Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, holds a briefing for reporters on Wednesday, August 10, 2016. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - "You don't hear the word 'stalemate' anymore," in connection with the fighting in Iraq and Syria, Lt.-Gen. Sean MacFarland, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq, told reporters on Wednesday.

"That's because over the past year, with our partners, we were able to seize the initiative. We now talk about maintaining the momentum of the campaign in both Iraq and Syria. In other words, we spend more time thinking about what we will do to the enemy than we spend thinking about what the enemy might do to us.

"But even success can beget problems, and we've heard concern from quarters that the military campaign is moving too fast. Well, from my perspective, that is not a bad problem to have."

A reporter asked MacFarland, Who is saying the campaign is moving too fast?

"I'll tell you, it tends to come from some of the humanitarian folks who are trying to make sure that they have all of the humanitarian assistance lined up for internally displaced personnel, IDPs, as we call them. They're trying to make sure that there is no humanitarian crisis as a result of our successes."

ISIS has destroyed and booby-trapped some of the cities it once held as coalition forces pushed them out. Mosul, which the enemy still holds, and which the U.S. intends to liberate, has a population of around a million people.

"We want to conduct the campaign to liberate Mosul in a way that leaves the city largely intact and its people in good health," MacFarland said.

He told reporters that the recent progress against Daesh in Iraq and Syria has been "remarkable," with the enemy now "in retreat on all fronts."

"Yes, we modified the type and level of support we (the U.S.) provided over the course of the past year, but we have not fundamentally altered the paradigm of train and equip, advise and assist."

To prove his point, MacFarland gave numbers:

-- The U.S.-led coalition has trained more than 13,500 members of the Iraqi Security Forces, including 4,000 Iraqi Army soldiers, 1,500 counter-terrorism troops, 6,000 Peshmerga, almost 1,000 federal police and 300 border guards.

-- Almost 250,000 Iraqi civilians liberated;

-- Police training for 5,000 locals and 20,000 tribal fighters to patrol liberated cities;

-- 50,000 sorties by coalition aircraft against Daesh in the past year;

-- 30,000 dropped munitions on the enemy with approximately two-thirds of those in Iraq and about one-third in Syria.

-- 700 artillery fire missions;

-- More than 200 strikes against oil and natural gas activities of the enemy, including 640 tanker trucks destroyed and oil revenue stream reduced by 50 percent;

-- Half a billion dollars in enemy cash destroyed;

-- Estimated 25,000 enemy fighters killed in past 11 months.

"I only tell you this number (enemy killed) to provide a sense to the scale of our support and perhaps explain why enemy resistance is beginning to crumble," MacFarland said.

"And whatever the true number of enemy casualties may be, there's no question that our strikes have enabled the liberation of more than 25,000 total square kilometers from Daesh. That's nearly half of what the enemy once controlled in Iraq and 20 percent of what they once controlled in Syria.

MacFarland said once ISIS is defeated in the city of Manbij, that will "set the stage for the eventual attack to seize Raqqah (in Syria), and that will mark the beginning of the end for Daesh in Syria."

But MacFarland also sounded a note of caution:

"Military success in Iraq and Syria will not necessarily mean the end of Daesh," he said. "We can expect the enemy to adapt, to morph into a true insurgent force and terrorist organization capable of horrific attacks like the one here on July 3rd in Baghdad and those others we've seen around the world."

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