Coalition general: ISIS fighters on their heels

Fighters of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) take positions in a trench at the frontline against ISIS fighters in the southern countryside of Ras al-Ain December 7, 2014.

Fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) take positions in a trench at the frontline against ISIS fighters in the southern countryside of Ras al-Ain December 7, 2014.

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants have lost momentum in Iraq and are now far less able to generate the kind of ground maneuvers that enabled them to capture large chunks of Iraq earlier this year, a senior U.S. general said Monday.

Army Lt. Gen. James Terry, the man in charge anti-ISIS efforts, and commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, also announced that U.S. allies plan to commit almost 1,500 troops to train and advise Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the Associated Press reported.

The forces would add to about 3,100 U.S. troops President Barack Obama had authorized be deployed to Iraq, Lieutenant General James Terry, who commands all coalition efforts against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, said, according to Reuters news agency.

The allies’ commitments were made during a conference among coalition members on Dec. 2-3.

“When you start now to balance the different capabilities out across the coalition, I think we’re doing pretty well in terms of boots on the ground,” Terry told reporters in Kuwait during a visit along with outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

In his first extensive interview since taking command of the counter-ISIS campaign in October, Terry told a small group of reporters that ISIS is “on defense, trying to hold what they have gained.” He added that the group, which is armed with tanks and other U.S.-made war equipment captured from the Iraqi army, is “still able to conduct some limited attacks.”

Terry said his first priority is to develop more fully an international military coalition against ISIS.

The U.S. intervened directly starting in August with airstrikes that have damaged ISIS’s fighting force, as well as its economic and logistics bases in Syria. But questions remain about the Iraqis’ ability to retake the ground they lost and to sustain a military campaign with President Barack Obama ruling out the use of American ground combat forces.

Terry said he sees no need now for additional U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the extra 1,500 that Obama recently approved. The U.S. mission there is limited to training and advising the Iraqis, as well as coordinating U.S. air power with Iraq ground operations.

“I’m comfortable with the boots on the ground that we have right now,” he said.

Asked whether the conflict in Iraq is at a stalemate, Terry said, “In some places it’s stalemated; in some places it’s to the advantage of the Iraqis,” meaning the Iraqis have the upper hand now in places like Baiji, site of a key oil refinery north of Baghdad.

 
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