Islamic-State-reverting-to-roots-by-killing-civilians-CENTCOM-commander-says. BAGHDAD, Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, said Islamic State fighters could be “reverting to their roots” in stepping up deadly attacks on civilians.
Votel made the comments to reporters on Wednesday while his military aircraft was being refueled at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. More than 150 people have been killed recently in Iraq, primarily in Baghdad, in attacks mostly attributed to the Islamic State. Many attacks have targeted civilian populations in busy marketplaces.
Votel said he is concerned that the Islamic State’s onslaught on Baghdad could cause the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces to lose focus on key battleground goals such as recapturing the city of Mosul and seizing control of more areas of Anbar province.
“There is a little concern that if this is not addressed quickly it could cause them to have to take action to divert forces and divert their politics focus on that, as opposed to things like Mosul or finishing up their activities out in Anbar,” Votel said, adding that the Islamic State seems to be returning to its roots as a terrorist group by bombing civilians to try to regain momentum and divert attention away from its battlefield losses.
Votel also said there are concerns about political instability in Iraq, with protesters demanding a change in the makeup of the government’s cabinet and the Iraqi Parliament often paralyzed.
Iraqi security forces retook control of the remote western town of Rutba away from the Islamic State, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Wednesday. Rutba was used by the Islamic State as a support zone in which they prepared for operations in the north and east of the town.
Maj. Gen. Ali Dabon, a commander of operations, on Wednesday said 15 villages were freed from Islamic State control in west Anbar, adding that the operation was assisted by local fighters in Anbar, by the Iraqi security forces and by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.
Iraqi security forces launched an offensive to retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State control in March. The effort began by isolating the city from surrounding areas and slowly chipping away at IS territory and supply routes. The Peshmerga later joined the offensive.
Mosul is considered one of the most important battles in the fight against the Islamic State — also known as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL — in Iraq. U.S. President Barack Obama said he expects the city of Mosul to be retaken by the Iraqi government by the end of the year.
The Islamic State has lost about 40 percent of area it previously controlled in Iraq, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday.
“Iraq’s security forces, backed by coalition military airpower and the advice and assistance of coalition militaries from around the world, has been effective in driving ISIL out of territory that they previously controlled,” Earnest said. “We know that ISIL has been driven out of about 40 percent of the populated areas that ISIL previously controlled in Iraq. That’s tangible progress.”