Photo: US Marine Corps
By Kris Osborn - Managing Editor - Warrior Maven
Pentagon officials say ISIS no longer holds any “territory” in Iraq and is shifting to a decentralized insurgency as a way to continue some measure of resistance against Iraqi Security Forces.
“ISIS is no longer able to physically hold territory in Iraq. They have decentralized into cells but are not able to carry out complex attacks. Fighting is not over but has changed in character,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway told Warrior Maven.
Rankine-Galloway added that remaining ISIS fighters are “hiding out” much like insurgents have in prior years in Iraq, raising questions about just how long they might be able to launch hit-and-run type attacks and blend in among the civilian population.
While US forces are still providing some long range fires support with weapons such as HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System), Galloway emphasized that US military members are primarily providing training, intelligence support and logistics coordination for the Iraqi Security Forces.
Coalition air attacks are still underway when ISIS fighters are identified, Rankine-Galloway said.
Some are likely to wonder if lingering ISIS fighters will have an ability to infiltrate civilian communities, mobilize and coordinate any kind of attacks or terrorist activity upon ISF or coalition forces. The decentralized quality of insurgencies, which by design seek to limit visible formations, could bring a “lone wolf” type of threat not unlike what many Sunni insurgents did following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
At the same time, the numbers of ISIS fighters are much smaller by comparison than the number of insurgents which emerged following Operation Iraqi Freedom. Furthermore, ISIS fighters in Iraq do not appear to have much safe haven, particularly given that ISF fighters are now implementing house-to-house type of counterinsurgency missions.
Meanwhile, Pentagon leaders told reporters that the US will not announce any kind of timeline regarding when US troops may withdraw from Syria.
“One of the things we have not been given is a timeline, and that is actually very effective. That might have been a problem we saw before in Afghanistan, where we operated against a timeline that was known to the enemy,” Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told reporters, according to a Pentagon transcript.