More than 6,600 coalition air strikes have “gone a long way to degrade” the ISIS extremists’ ability to launch large-scale attacks and have enabled Iraqi Security Forces and anti-ISIS fighters in Syria to reclaim more than 5,300 square kilometers of territory, a coalition official said Friday. Hundreds of air strikes in Anbar Province, Iraq, also are helping ISF troops and Sunni tribal fighters in a “very deliberate” campaign to isolate Ramadi in preparation for a clearing operation, Marine Brig. Gen. Kevin Killea said. “We have struck staging areas and weapons carriers and other vehicles” and have focused on IED-making facilities, said Killea, chief of staff of the Operation Inherent Resolve coalition, in a video briefing to Pentagon reporters. Killea disputed news stories citing intelligence information showing that ISIS is as strong as it was before a year of coalition air strikes. “In my opinion, this is not the same fight as when it started,” he said, noting ISIS’s loss of territory, which means its attacks “are smaller, less enduring. All you have to do is look at the gains on the ground to see the clear effect.” He also denies that US trained fighters were captured in Syria.
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.