At least 95 percent of the territory in Iraq that was previously controlled by Islamic State group forces has been cleared and some have even mentioned surrender as Iraqi Security Forces and U.S.-led coalition forces move closer to the complete liberation of the country, a U.S. commanding general in Iraq said Thursday.
Speaking from Baghdad via video conference, Lt. Gen. Robert White, a commanding general in Iraq for the operation to fight the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, said that the terrorist group’s forces are losing ground and even asking for surrender, which is “something you would not have seen a year ago.”
“Daesh is fighting for survival,” said White, using an Arabic name for the Islamic State group. “They are losing, they know they’re losing, and there’s no way out.”
According to the Combined Joint Task Force, the ISF liberated Hawija on Oct. 5 and more than 1,000 terrorists surrendered during the 14-day operation. More than 4 million Iraqis have been liberated across the country and, along with Mosul and Tal Afar, Hawija is the third major city to be liberated from ISIS control.
“The physical caliphate has been destroyed” and “it will be finished off in another part of the world here shortly,” White said.
A number of remaining Islamic State group forces have been driven to the Euphrates River Valley in northern Iraq. When questioned about Islamic State group members crossing the border into Syria, White said that the Iraqi government has no intention of driving ISIS members out of Iraq and into Syria.
“Their intent is to kill them or capture them,” said White.
As the number of Islamic State group forces gets smaller, White said, there are plans for coalition forces to remain in Iraq once the country is completely liberated and its borders are secure in order to provide assistance to the ISF and continue training military and police forces.
“There is an important role for the coalition” in the post-liberation Iraq, he said.
Any recommendations to stay will have to first be approved by the Iraqi government.
Operations to fight the terrorist group by coalition forces in Iraq began in October 2014. The U.S.-led coalition is made up of 23 countries.