Special to WorldTribune.com
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Jan. 13 said the U.S.-led coalition has a plan in place to drive Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) out of its strongholds in Iraq and Syria.
“The specialized expeditionary targeting force I announced in December is now in place and is preparing to work with the Iraqis to begin going after ISIL’s fighters and commanders, killing or capturing them wherever we find them, along with other key targets,” Carter said in a speech to troops from the 101st Airborne Division who will soon deploy to Iraq.
Carter also said it was important that the U.S. not “Americanize” the fight in Iraq and Syria as it would allow jihadists the opportunity to accuse the West of deploying an occupying force.
Critics continue to blast the Obama administration for what is seen as a failed strategy “that isn’t aggressive enough and should involve a more robust military presence to both defeat ISIL, and protect fleeing refugees, particularly along the Turkey and Syria border,” the Military Times reported.
Carter said he will soon meet with defense leaders from France, Australia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom and “will not hesitate to engage and challenge” them to bring more to the fight against ISIL.
“Each of these nations has a significant stake in completing the destruction of this evil organization, and we must include all of the capabilities they can bring to the field,” he said.
The U.S. will deploy 500 troops from the 101st Airborne headquarters at the end of February. About 1,300 members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team will deploy to Iraq in late spring. The brigade will be training Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
Carter said the new strategy against ISIL includes air support for Iraqi troops and Kurdish peshmerga forces in an offensive to retake Mosul in northern Iraq and to assist moderate Syrian rebels to drive ISIL jihadists from their de facto capital in Raqqa, Syria.
Military leaders have said ISIL has lost 40 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq, and 20 percent of its territory in Syria.