The recent attacks in Paris and Brussels “are not signs of ISIL’s strength, but rather, a reflection of their distorted attempts to maintain the ability to recruit in the face of their failures on the battlefield,” the vice director for operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Though the Joint Staff does not believe there is a direct correlation, the attacks “do demonstrate the twisted lengths to which ISIL will go as it attempts to survive as an organization,” Rear Adm. Andrew Lewis said during a Wednesday briefing at the Pentagon. Iraqi security forces have started “shaping and isolation” operations for retaking Mosul with coalition support, and ISF has recaptured vital parts of the group’s communications networks, “important stepping stones in isolating Mosul.” Lewis would not answer questions about whether a plan exists for retaking the ISIL stronghold. While the coalition has “significant momentum” against ISIL, Lewis wouldn’t say we have “turned a corner” in the fight. “The trend is going in the right direction,” he said.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.