CJTF-OIR Spox: ‘We remain committed’ to our partners in the defeat of ISIS

Global Coalition 'committed' to partners in defeat of ISIS, spokesman says
Col. Wayne Marotto, Spokesman for the US-led Coalition, speaks to Kurdistan 24 over Skype.
Col. Wayne Marotto, Spokesman for the US-led Coalition, speaks to Kurdistan 24 over Skype.

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – “We remain committed” to “our partner forces” in “the enduring defeat” of the so-called Islamic State, Col. Wayne Marotto, Spokesman for the US-led Coalition, affirmed to Kurdistan 24.

“In conjunction with our partner forces—the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces), the Peshmerga, and the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces),” we are continuing our fight against the terrorist organization, the Spokesman for the Coalition, formally known as Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), stated earlier this week.

Marotto’s statement came on the eve of the first anniversary of the US assassination of the head of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Gen. Qassim Soleimani, an occasion which pro-Iranian elements in Iraq exploited to reiterate their demand for the expulsion of US forces from Iraq.

Read More: Crowd in Baghdad marks first anniversary of US drone strike that killed top Iranian general, militia leader

But, as Marotto affirmed, “There are no US bases in Iraq,” and “we’re in Iraq at the invitation and operate in close coordination with the government of Iraq and in full respect of Iraq’s sovereignty.”

“Our mission has not changed,” he stated, even as it has evolved, as Col. David Williams, Director of the Kurdistan Coordination Center (KCC), explained last month to Kurdistan 24.

“We’ve really moved away from the tactical level training to the operational level advising mission over the last few months,” Williams said.

Read More: Director of Kurdistan Coordination Center: ISIS threat remains, Coalition remains to fight it

Marotto elaborated on that point, affirming, “We will continue to provide mentorship and operational senior level advice and will provide planning, intelligence, logistics and airpower” to our partners in the fight against ISIS.

He then detailed aspects of Coalition assistance to one partner: the Peshmerga.

“We have what is called the Counter-ISIS Train and Equip Fund,” Marotto continued. “We call it CTEF, and it’s in support of the government of Iraq’s ongoing fight against Da’esh, and OIR oversees the execution of this fund.”

“It’s a US Department of Defense funded program,” he explained, and it is separate from the State Department’s Security Assistance program, which provides additional support.

“In November, through the CTEF, over $6 million in supplies and equipment was divested into Kurdistan and the Peshmerga,” he continued.

As an example, Marotto noted that over the coming week, the Coalition would be delivering, from the US inventory, more than 93 vehicles to the Peshmerga: some 50 Land Cruisers, 20 armored tactical vehicles, 12 ambulances, and 11 Humvees.

In the previous month, over 40 vehicles were provided to the Peshmerga.

Marotto also stressed that the program continues and has been funded through most of 2022, following the US Congress’ recent approval of the Defense Department budget for the next fiscal year.

ISIS Remains a “Serious Challenge”

“Da’esh remains a serious challenge,” Marotto said, “but relentless pressure by our security partners in Iraq and Syria is preventing” its resurgence.

As Williams earlier told Kurdistan 24, the terrorist group remains “particularly strong” in some of the areas disputed between Erbil and Baghdad.

While the Peshmerga were in charge of security in those areas, they were relatively quiet. But the security situation has deteriorated sharply since October 2017, when Iraqi forces attacked the Peshmerga in a military operation orchestrated by Qasim Soleimani, during the tenure of former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who was defeated in elections the following spring.

Efforts are now being made to, once again, engage the Peshmerga in security efforts there, as the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Minister for Peshmerga Affairs, Shorsh Ismail, recently explained.

Read More: Iraqi MP, Peshmerga Minister stress role of Peshmerga in maintaining security in disputed areas

Marotto also disputed what he called a “misconception” that ISIS was attacking Coalition convoys “bringing supplies to US bases in Iraq.”

“That’s not correct,” he said, they are “outlaw gangs,” referring to pro-Iranian Shia militias. Moreover, they are not attacking US targets, he said. Rather, they are “attacking Iraqi-contracted civilian logistic convoys driven by Iraqi civilians attempting to earn a living and provide for their families,” while the equipment they are carrying is for the ISF.

Marotto also provided statistics for Coalition operations over the past year. In 2020, he explained, the Coalition, along with its partner forces, carried out 590 operations in Iraq, while detaining 378 enemy fighters. There were 172 operations in Syria, with 483 enemy fighters detained.

“Follow us on OIR Twitter and Facebook,” Marotto advised. Nearly every Friday, the Coalition posts statistics on the operations it has conducted over the past week.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany