Defense Secretary Ash Carter, speaking to the next US unit tasked with training Iraqi troops in the fight against ISIS, said the battle is long from over and the next step needs to be targeting the “tumors” where the group is centered and stopping the group from spreading further. “It won’t be easy,” Carter said Wednesday at Fort Campbell, Ky., the home of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. “ISIL is a cancer that’s threatening to spread. And like all cancers, you can’t cure the disease by just cutting out the tumor. You have to eliminate wherever it has spread, and stop it from coming back.” The US and coalition campaign is focused on the “parent tumors” of ISIS in Raqqah, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, along with combating “the emerging metastases of the ISIL tumor worldwide.” The coalition campaign has “big arrows” pointing at Mosul and Raqqah, Carter said. “We will begin by collapsing ISIL’s control over both of these cities and then engage in elimination operations through other territories ISIL holds in Iraq and Syria.” The 101st will deploy to Iraq, centered in Baghdad and Erbil, to help train Iraqi and Peshmerga forces in this fight, something that will be critical in retaking Mosul. “Reaching and retaking Mosul will not be easy, and it will not be quick,” Carter said. “There will be many engagements in between.”
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.