US military warns victories in Iraq and Syria not end of ISIS

© Thaier Al-Sudani
US military officials say Iraqi forces are capable of seizing the city of Mosul from Islamic State, but the victory would not mean permanent defeat of jihadists. The Pentagon warns the group could “morph into a true insurgent force.”

“Military success in Iraq and Syria will not necessarily mean the end of Daesh. We can expect the enemy to adapt, to morph into a true insurgent force and terrorist organization capable of horrific attacks,” Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the commander of Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters Wednesday.

This week the US military has shared details of its anti-ISIS strikes in Iraq, saying that its Monday attacks “struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed three ISIL vehicles, an ISIL mortar system and an ISIL assembly area and denied ISIL access to terrain.”

The Pentagon announced Wednesday that another strike struck IS’s tactical unit and destroyed one of its vehicles near Mosul. 

The Iraqi city of Mosul and surrounding areas fell into the hands of ISIS in June 2014, sending thousands of Iraqi soldiers fleeing. Later, Iraq admitted that ISIS jihadists captured huge caches of US-made weapons, including 2,300 Humvees. More than two years on, Mosul remain jihadists’ stronghold, but the Pentagon is confident it is not for long. 

“We're going to try to get Mosul back as fast as we can,” MacFarland said, but refused to speculate on exact timeframe. 

The Iraqi government, with significant “advise and consent” help from the US, is currently preparing a major offensive in the northern city. 

Today, MacFarland said, the US has shifted its focus “on police training and recruiting”, which would let the Iraqi forces “to be a hold force” once Mosul is recaptured.

“These men will be key to holding the gains. … We have plans to train quite a number of the additional forces for that mission,” MacFarland said, predicting that holding Mosul would require thousands of Iraqi police.

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In July, the US announced it was sending over 500 additional US troops to Iraq to assist the country’s armed forces in the offensive against the Islamic State.

“We'll make sure that we don't pull those clearing forces out too soon, and we'll try to get as many hold forces in there as quickly as we can. But we want to make sure that they have the training and the equipment that they require to succeed,” MacFarland said.