Pentagon: US Committed to Continued Fight against ISIS

“We continue to work closely with the international community to address the ISIS threat,” Ryder affirmed.
Pentagon Press Secretary, Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder. (Photo: Kurdistan24)
Pentagon Press Secretary, Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder. (Photo: Kurdistan24)

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Addressing reporters on Thursday, Pentagon Press Secretary, Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder, affirmed the continued U.S. commitment to fight ISIS in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere.

That position constitutes a rebuff to Iran, which has sought to use the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas to mobilize its proxy militias and push the U.S. out of the region.

That effort peaked in mid-April, as Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani paid his first visit to Washington. 

Read More: U.S. Seeks to Broaden Ties with Iraq, as PM Sudani Makes First Visit to Washington

However, the Iranian effort failed, and, generally, the visit proved a successful step forward, including from a Kurdish perspective. 

Read More: Biden, Austin Hold Talks with Sudani: Improving Erbil, Baghdad Ties; Reopening Pipeline; Defending Kurdistan Region

Iranian Anger

Indeed, Tehran responded angrily to Sudani’s visit. On Apr. 21, just one day after he left the U.S., five rockets were fired at a U.S. base in northeast Syria. The following day, Apr. 22, two drones were fired at Ain al-Asad air base, in Iraq’s western Anbar province, where U.S. forces are based as part of the anti-ISIS coalition.

Addressing reporters the following day, on Apr. 23, Ryder, attributed the attacks on U.S. troops to “Iran-aligned militia groups,” noting that they had been “the first attacks on coalition facilities since February 4th.”

Nor did the attacks end then. On Apr. 26, the KurdistanRegion’s Khor Mor gas field, which is run by a UAE company, Dana Gas, was attacked by drones. Four Yemeni workers were killed, and the attack caused a major drop in the supply of electricity to the Kurdistan Region until the damage could be repaired. 

Read More: U.S. ‘Strongly Condemns’ Drone Attack on Khor Mor Gas Field

KRG Effort to Calm Situation

Following Sudani’s return to Baghdad from Washington, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Nechirvan Barzani, traveled to Baghdad, where he met Sudani on Apr. 27 and then saw several other Iraqi leaders.

Almost certainly, those discussions included a review of Sudani’s meetings in Washington and the implications for relations between Baghdad and Erbil.

A week later, on May 5. Barzani traveled to Tehran, where he met a range of Iranian leaders, including President Ebrahim Raisi and the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei

It was Barzani’s first visit to Iran in three years, since August 2021, when he visited Tehran to attend Raisi’s inauguration.

One key objective was to reassure Tehran that the KRG had no hostile intent, while underscoring that attacks on vital infrastructure, like the Khor Mor gas field, crossed the KRG’s own red lines.

Asked for comment on Barzani’s visit, State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller seemed to have no objection. Rather, he replied, “We have always encouraged any conversations that would lead to de-escalation and would lead to further stability in the region, including vis-a-vis Iran, which of course has been one of the greatest contributors to instability in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.”

Ryder’s Re-Affirmation of the Defeat ISIS Mission

On Thursday, Ryder was asked to comment on reports that Iran was cultivating more proxy groups in Syria, using local tribes for that purpose/

“This is not new behavior from Iran. It’s how they do business,” he said.

Ryder described how that works: “By trying to train and influence proxy groups to essentially project their foreign policy of trying to expel the U.S. and other partners from the region.”

“We respect the sovereignty of the countries that we work with,” Ryder continued, “unlike some of these proxy groups,” and “when it comes to ungoverned spaces like Syria, we're going to continue to stay focused, number one, on the defeat ISIS mission, but we're also going to maintain awareness of broader regional threats as we work with allies and partners” to prevent “situations whereby our forces or citizens” or “importantly, our allies and partners, are threatened.”

“We continue to work closely with the international community to address the ISIS threat,” Ryder affirmed. In Iraq and Syria, “ISIS is by no means what it was ten years ago.” But “we need to continue to work together to prevent a resurgence of ISIS in that region.” 

“More broadly,” he cautioned, “in terms of ISIS around the world in places like Africa or Afghanistan,” it is “starting to gain some traction.” 

“So this will continue to be something that's very important from a counterterrorism standpoint and a threat we need to continue to take seriously,” he concluded.