US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter wants to accelerate the defeat of Islamic State and he will not be satisfied until their claims to a caliphate are eliminated, the Pentagon has said, a day after Iraqi forces captured the strategic town of Rutbah.
“He (Carter) wants to accelerate the defeat of Islamic State (ISIS). And until that happens and their claims to a caliphate are eliminated, that that he won’t be satisfied. He’d like this to move faster,” the Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters at a news conference yesterday.
Iraqi forces entering the strategic town of Rutbah is a significant development in the war against ISIS, he said.
“And in the last day, those forces have continued to expand government control and now have cleared 80 per cent of the town,” he said.
Rutbah outsized significance because of its position on the main land route between Jordan and central Iraq.
Before ISIS seized this town, more than USD 1 billion in trade passed through Rutbah each year and the eventual reopening of that route will have important benefits for the economy both in Iraq and in the region, Cook said.
This operation also recaptured the final ISIS stronghold in southern Iraq south of the Euphrates, he added.
Iraqi forces retook Rutbah from ISIS on Thursday, in the wake of a weeklong series of deadly attacks by the insurgents in Baghdad.
Responding to a question, Cook said the US troops in Iraq are not in combat operation. US troops are playing the role of training and capacity building.
“In the course of doing that, given the situation with ISIL and the threat they pose, those US forces find themselves in harm’s way and there have been instances in which they’ve found themselves in combat,” he said.