By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2018 — The physical caliphate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is in pieces and operations against ISIS continues in the Euphrates River valley, but the ISIS “brand” remains to be defeated, Pentagon officials said here today.
Remnants of the terror group continue to operate in Iraq, but improved Iraqi security forces are able to manage that threat, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. told reporters during the weekly Pentagon briefing. McKenzie is the director of the Joint Staff.
And, McKenzie denied Russian claims that the United States was responsible for drone attacks on Russian airfields in Syria. “I can tell you unequivocally that the United States was not involved in any way with the drone attack on the Russian base at any time,” he said.
ISIS ‘Broken, Fractured’
“[The physical caliphate] has been broken and fractured, but the work still continues,” White said. “We are going to continue our operations because we ultimately have to ensure we have conditions on the ground that ISIS can never reemerge.”
McKenzie said trends against the remnants of the physical caliphate in the Middle Euphrates River valley are good. “We seem to be having success there with our allies and partners, but … I wouldn’t put a timeline on that,” he said. “There is also an enduring global element to it — the enfranchisement of ISIS. Even though they failed as a caliphate, there are global manifestations of their brand that we see pop-up. I think there is plenty for the global coalition to do in the year ahead, aside from the physical end of the caliphate in the Euphrates River valley.
The bottom line, the officials said, is the global coalition dedicated to defeating ISIS will now dedicate more attention to combating the image of the terror group than in actual combat against ISIS members. They said ISIS’ global brand is fading with the defeat of the physical caliphate and as stories about the horror of life under ISIS are disseminated.
Inside Iraq, there are still problems from the remnants of ISIS in areas where the terror group operated before Iraqi security forces defeated them, White and McKenzie said. There have been terrorist attacks against civilian targets inside Iraq, but the U.S. assessment is that local forces can handle the challenge, they said.
“It could be local police, the Iraqi army, it could be [Counter Terrorism Service], I don’t know the specifics of the case,” McKenzie said. “In all cases, we want to proceed to the point where it is local police, indigenous police that are actually able to handle it. I wouldn’t say we are there in all cases yet, but it certainly is not U.S. forces doing this. We are providing the enablers and other support to allow the Iraqis to go after these problems.”