Inside the Coalition to Defeat ISIL
SOUTHWEST ASIA --
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Iraqi army soldiers with 73rd Brigade, 15th Division, look on as U.S. instructors from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, discuss movement techniques and squad-level tactics at a training area on Camp Taji, Iraq, March 24, 2015. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn
Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve is the U.S.-led coalition’s response to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorist group, often referred to as Daesh.
Formed in October 2014 to counter ISIL’s sweeping takeover of territory in Iraq and Syria last summer, the task force brings to bear more than 60 countries in the fight against ISIL.
“The coalition exists to counter Daesh in Iraq [and] Syria,” said Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Thomas D. Weidley, the chief of staff for CJTF-OIR. “Those operations [conducted] in Syria enable Iraqi security forces as they force Daesh to re-allocate their resources to the Syrian theater.
“All of our coalition contributions,” Weidley continued, “are directed at achieving success in our mission, which is to degrade and ultimately defeat Daesh.”
The most visible action taken has been in the form of airstrikes. CJTF-OIR has relied on its coalition air superiority, launching more than 3,200 airstrikes against ISIL targets in both Iraq and Syria since operations began in August 2014.
“Our deliberate targeting process involves many levels of review. We look at those targets for hours and hours to understand the pattern of life, and all airstrikes in Iraq are approved by the Ministry of Defense,” Weidley said. “It’s a process that’s resulted in airstrike success across Iraq and Syria.”
The coalition’s other main effort is training the Iraqi security forces through a program called Building Partner Capacity. The coalition has nearly a thousand military trainers and advisers in Iraq at five separate sites, where they train Iraqi and Kurdish security forces through four- to six-week periods of instruction to prepare them for anti-ISIL operations.
The BPC site trainers are composed of a host of countries.
“We developed the BPC construct to allow coalition trainers to go into Iraq at agreed-upon sites and get [the ISF] capable of taking on [ISIL],” Weidley said. “We’re not building U.S. equivalent units.”
Building Iraqi Military Capacity to Defeat ISIL
Weidley sees the defeat of ISIL resting largely on the coalition’s ability to build the military capacity of Iraq.
Build Partner Capacity “allows us to latch-on to an equivalent entity and provide that guidance, assistance and perspective,” Weidley said. “We continue to push more units through our BPC sites. Combine that with the enablers we bring -- fires, intelligence, partnership at the headquarters level -- helps generate momentum. ISF has continued to counter ISIL’s episodic attacks.”
He added that the BPC mission has continued to build Iraq’s military capabilities, citing the development of small-unit leaders and the ability to conduct counter-improvised explosive device missions and obstacle clearing and breaching.
The strategy has been embraced by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who said to troops during his visit to the region that a lasting defeat against ISIL requires the military capacity of local forces “because they must take the lead and take responsibility.”