The Pentagon says Islamic State, or ISIS, militants in Iraq are on the defensive even as new reports claim that the insurgent group has captured key territory in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, 30 miles west of Baghdad.
ISIS fighters, also derogatively called Daesh, are changing the way they fight by no longer operating in the large formations used to topple cities in Iraq and Syria last year, said Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Thomas Weidley, chief of staff of the Combined Joint Task Force for Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. military force combating ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
“At this point, areas of Ramadi remain contested as Daesh terrorists attempt to consolidate and defend some of their recent temporary gains in the east and south of the city,” Weidley said in a Friday call with reporters at the Pentagon.
Earlier, ISIS “executed a complex attack on Iraqi Security Forces,” the general said. CNN reported that the group captured a police headquarters, the Ramadi Great Mosque and raised its flag over the provincial government building.
Still, Weidley said Iraqi Security Forces and federal and local police continue to control most key facilities, infrastructure and roadways in the area.
“These forces were able to repel most of these attacks, but some gains were made by Daesh in previously contested areas,” Weidley said.
The general said ISIS is changing its fighting tactics, which signals the group is on the defensive. When coalition airstrikes began in August, ISIS fighters would cover their vehicles and started wearing Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish uniforms.
“This isn’t the actions that an offensively minded, conventional force starts to undertake,” Weidley said. “[T]hey’ve started to transition to the defensive when coalition air started to enter the battlespace.”
The group is also racing inexperienced, poorly trained fighters to the battlefield to replace militants killed in combat, Weidley said.