WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Ash Carter offered his congratulations Monday to Iraq’s prime minister after Iraqi forces succeeded in retaking the government center in Ramadi from Islamic State, also known by the acronym ISIL.
“The expulsion of ISIL by Iraqi security forces, supported by our international coalition, is a significant step forward in the campaign to defeat this barbaric group and restore Iraq’s territorial sovereignty,” Carter said in a statement.
The operation to reach the center of Ramadi was a significant milestone on the path to clear ISIL from the historic city and the overall campaign to defeat the terrorist group across Iraq, according to a statement released by Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve officials.
Ramadi’s strategic location on the highway that connects Iraq with Syria and Jordan made it a prized target for ISIL, which took the city in May.
“The fight for Ramadi demonstrates how capable, motivated local forces backed by coalition air support and training can defeat ISIL,” Carter said. “Now it’s important for the Iraqi government, working with provincial and local authorities, to seize this opportunity to maintain the peace in Ramadi, prevent the return of ISIL and other extremists, and facilitate the return of Ramadi’s citizens back to the city.”
“Even with this success, the fight against ISIL is far from over,” the defense secretary said. “The United States military stands ready to support our Iraqi partners and the rest of the international coalition as we build on today’s progress and continue to strike ISIL on multiple fronts until we achieve their inevitable defeat.”
“Coupled with other recent ISIL losses across Iraq and Syria, including at Tikrit, Bayji, al Hawl, the Tishrin Dam and Sinjar, the seizure of the government center clearly demonstrates that the enemy is losing momentum as they steadily cede territory,” said Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the U.S. Central Command commander. “Looking ahead, I expect our partners on the ground in both Iraq and Syria, with coalition assistance, to continue to roll back ISIL gains as we work together to defeat this enemy.”
“The Iraqi security forces, including the counterterrorism service, the Iraqi army, the Iraqi air force, the federal and local police and the tribal fighters, have demonstrated their resolve in the fight for Ramadi,” said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the CJTF-OIR commander. “I also want to commend the thousands of troops of the coalition who have made this success possible. ... This success belongs to them as well, and we will all work together to defeat our common enemy.”
Task force officials said coalition support to operations in Ramadi included more than 600 strikes focused against ISIL targets in and around the city, training and equipping multiple elements of the Iraqi security forces, providing specialized engineering equipment to clear improvised explosive devices, and providing advice and assistance at multiple Iraqi headquarters.