Joseph F. Dunford. Photo: AP.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph F. Dunford detailed the latest developments on the battlefields against the Islamic State group (ISIS or ISIL) in Iraq following his meeting with Kurdish President Masoud Barzani.
Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Erbil, Dunford said that the fight against ISIS is very tough because the extremist group is ”adaptable and flexible.”
“We want to create pressure against ISIL across Iraq and Syria,” the Department of Defense quoted Dunford as telling reporters on his trip to Erbil.
Kurdish forces in Syria are operating against ISIL lines of communication that extend from the group’s de facto capital of Raqqa to Mosul in Iraq and on to Erbil, Dunford said.
These operations will “make life difficult for ISIL,” the general said. He explained that the Kurds have taken back “a not insignificant amount of ground from ISIL.”
Iraqi forces successfully recaptured the oil-rich refinery town of Baiji in Salahaddin province, driving out the militants, he said.
“The number of Sunni that have been trained and armed is about 6,000 in Anbar province, and they want to grow to about 8,500," Dunford added.
On the police side of the ledger, the government was looking for 16,000 Sunnis to volunteer, and they are now at around 11,000 to 12,000.
Dunford described Iraqi forces in Ramadi as a stabilizing force.
"The important thing about this is, the police are the stabilization force for Ramadi,” the general said. “That was encouraging to me, because clearing Ramadi is one thing… but we all know from experience that you have to have a plan for stabilization afterward," Dunford said.
"Defending Baghdad is clearly the most important mission in Iraq, and that is a main effort," he emphasized.Earlier this week, Barzani received Dunford and his accompanying delegation.
The two leaders discussed the fight against ISIS and the position of the Peshmerga on the frontlines, according to a statement released by Barzani’s office.
“We are doing a sacred duty in fighting against ISIS, because we fight an organization which does not have a humanitarian conscience,” a statement quoted Barzani as saying to the US delegation.
Dunford reportedly thanked the Kurdistan region for stopping ISIS from any further advances.