US intensifies efforts to degrade, destroy IS

The US and its coalition partners have intensified efforts to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State, mainly targeting the flourishing oil business of the terror group responsible for several attacks including the Paris carnage.

“Since the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, the United States, along with our partners in the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, have intensified our efforts to degrade and destroy ISIL in Iraq and Syria,” a White House official said, using another acronym for the terrorist group.

The White House statement came after President Barack Obama in a rare address from the Oval Office vowed that the US would overcome a new phase of the terror threat that seeks to “poison the minds” of people here and around the world.

Obama in his 13-minute prime time address to the nation, sought to reassure Americans rattled by the recent attack in California on Wednesday that killed 14 people and wounded 21.

He, however, announced no significant shift in US strategy and offered no new policy for defeating IS.

Since November 17, when Canada announced it would increase its trainers in northern Iraq, coalition airstrikes have destroyed 283 IS oil tanker trucks, 120 oil storage tanks, and a significant amount of oil-field infrastructure in eastern Syria, according to the White House official.

On December 2, the US announced to deploy an Expeditionary Targeting Force to assist Iraqi and Kurdish partners, including by launching raids against IS targets, gathering intelligence, and capturing IS leadership.

A day later, the UK began striking IS targets in Syria, and the next day, Germany’s parliament approved plans to commit up to 1,200 troops to the counter IS, including the potential deployment of surveillance and tanker aircraft.

Italy has announced plans to increase its presence in Iraq to 750 trainers.

France deployed aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to the eastern Mediterranean to intensify strikes against IS targets in Iraq and Syria, particularly around al-Raqqa, the proclaimed capital of Islamic State.

“In addition to enhancements in the military campaign in Iraq and Syria, we are taking new steps with international partners to improve our homeland defenses,” the official said.
On November 16, the US and France signed a new pact to

enable the American military to share more intelligence on a range of challenges.

Last week, the US announced a number of enhancements to the Visa Waiver Programme, which allows citizens of 38 participating countries – including Australia, the UK and many European countries – to travel to the US and stay without a visa for 90 days or less.

On December 17, the US will host a UN Summit to combat financing to extremist groups, the official said.

A number of coalition partners, including Belgium, Germany, Kuwait, Tunisia, have made arrests to break up terrorist cells liked to IS.

Noting that a number of new commitments will build on the momentum on the ground generated in operations over the past month, the official said Syrian Arab and Kurdish forces supported by coalition airstrikes have driven IS from Al-Hawl in northeastern Syria.

Iraqi Peshmerga forces supported by coalition strikes and advisers have driven IS from Sinjar, denying IS a key strategic and transit hub between Mosul and Raqqa.

Syrian Arab forces supported by coalition airstrikes have begun operations to close the remaining 98 kilometres of the Turkey-Syria border controlled by IS.

“As we intensify our counter-ISIL military efforts, we are also pressing forward on a reinvigorated political track in Syria. On November 14, participants in the International Support Group on Syria, including Russia and Iran, announced a path towards a Syrian-led political transition process,” the official said.