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Considerable progress made in degrading IS, White House claims

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Washington: In the last one year, the US and its allies have made considerable progress in degrading the capabilities of the Islamic State (IS) terror group that has gained control over a large territory in Libya, Syria and Iraq, the White House said today.

But as President Barack Obama has said, this campaign will take time, and there will be setbacks along the way, but the US and its coalition partners have made progress and will ultimately prevail, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.

Earnest said this on the occasion of one year anniversary of the commencement of airstrikes in Iraq against IS targets.

“You will recall one year ago today, that IS had advanced unimpeded across Iraq. Fallujah and other parts of Anbar had already fallen earlier in the year. Mosul had fallen, Tikrit had fallen, Kirkuk had fallen. IS was advancing rapidly on Erbil and Baghdad, where US government personnel were located. And IS forces were laying siege to Sinjar Mountain, threatening genocide against the Yazidi people,” he said.

IS had committed atrocities against all of Iraq’s diverse communities, Sunni, Shia, Kurd, Christians, Yazidi, Turkmen, Shabak, and others.

“But in the last year, we have made considerable, considerable progress in our effort to degrade and ultimately destroy IS,” Earnest said at the top of his briefing.

The US-led coalition has now hit IS with more than 6,000 airstrikes. The coalition has also taken out thousands of fighting positions, tanks, vehicles, bomb factories, and training camps, he added.

In Iraq, IS has lost the freedom to operate in some 30 per cent of the territory that they held last summer.

Overall, IS has lost more than 17,000 square kilometers of territory in northern Syria — that’s over the course of the last year — and they’re now cut off from all but 68 miles of the more than 500-mile-long border between Syria and Turkey, he said.

“Coalition forces have repeatedly struck IS leadership targets, to an extent that IS leadership targets no longer have a safe haven, and the US and our coalition partners are taking steps to interrupt IS finances, and make it more difficult for the group to attract new foreign fighters,” Earnest said.