SOUTHWEST ASIA --- Enabled by accelerated successes following the liberation of Mosul, the coalition will shift its focus in Iraq from enabling combat operations to sustaining military gains against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials announced today.
“The coalition will tailor our forces in consultation with our Iraqi partners in order to ensure the lasting defeat of [ISIS]," said CJTF-OIR director of operations, Army Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga.
As a result of the successful operations by the coalition and its partners, ISIS has lost about 98 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria. However, coalition commanders have noted ISIS is likely to transition back into an insurgency. ISIS still retains the ability to carry out lethal attacks and poses a potent threat to civilians and to the stability of the region.
"We're clear the enemy is still capable of offensive action and retains the ability to plan and inspire attacks worldwide," Braga said. "Although OIR’s force composition may change over time to ensure we have the best forces on hand for the task, we will retain an appropriate amount of capabilities as well as an advisory presence to continue training, advising and equipping our partners in the continued fight against [ISIS], all with the approval of the government of Iraq.
“Our enduring presence as invited guests in Iraq will shift to focus more on policing, border control and military capacity building. We will sustain the successful momentum and enhance the capacities of the Iraqi security forces in pursuing [ISIS], now and in the future,” Braga said.
Preventing ISIS’ Return
To prevent the conditions under which ISIS can re-emerge, coalition-partnered military operations will enable diplomatic and economic efforts by the international community that will capitalize on the military gains of the past year. “Military success has bought time, space and security for non-military stabilization efforts to help the people of Iraq, and we look to facilitate the return of normalcy for Iraqis," Braga said.
Continued coalition presence in Iraq will be conditions-based, proportional to the need and in coordination with the government of Iraq.
"We will redouble our efforts to develop the Iraqi security forces, ensuring they have the necessary capability and expertise to meet current and future security threats," said British Army Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney, OIR's deputy commander for strategy and support. “We remain committed to working with our Iraqi partners.”
Although the coalition will not provide specifics on individual nations' plans and contributions, it asserts 2018 will be a critical year in adjusting coalition forces as it consolidates gains against [ISIS] and brings hope for a better future to the Iraqi people.