The Pentagon says that it has demolished the majority of the oil refineries the Islamic State has been using to fund its terrorist activities and now is systematically destroying Syria-based stockpiles that support the terrorist network’s fighters in Iraq.
Over the past several days, the U.S. military and its Arab partners have pummeled eastern Syria with missiles, razing 16 of about 20 Islamic State-controlled oil refineries, a senior Pentagon official said. Now, the multinational operation will focus on hindering the extremist group’s ability to conduct combat in Iraq.
“Syria is where their logistics hubs, their resupply capability and their financing is centered,” the official said on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss operations freely.
Islamic State militants, sometimes referred to as ISIL, maintain in Syria all the “weapons and food and medical supplies that they’re going to distribute to fighters in Iraq,” the official said.
According to U.S. Central Command, U.S. fighter jets, drones and aircraft belonging to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates bombed 12 Islamic State-controlled oil refineries in eastern Syria on Sept. 24, and destroyed four other oil refineries in northern Syria on Sept. 28.
The coalition has used precision-guided munitions to preserve a portion of the small-scale refineries because they could someday be an economic asset to Syrian opposition fighters, said Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby.
On Tuesday, coalition airstrikes hit Islamic State fighters and artillery in Iraq and Syria, including an area around a Kurdish town near the Syria-Turkey border that the terrorists have attacked, The Associated Press reported.
Despite the airstrikes, the militants have pressed their offensive on the town of Kobani, also known by its Arabic name Ayn Arab, and surrounding villages near Syria’s border with Turkey.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said Tuesday that lawmakers will vote Thursday on a motion to allow foreign troops and Turkish soldiers to make incursions into Syria and Iraq from its territory, the AP reported.
Coalition members are using precision munitions to destroy training camps, motor pools and supply stockpiles, according to a second senior Pentagon official.
“That is the logistical tail that has been feeding into operations in Iraq,” the official said.
“We’re already seeing some effects in Iraq,” the official said. “ISIL is changing what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.”
Air Force Maj. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian told reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon Monday that the U.S. military has noticed a shift is the Islamic State’s behavior.
“Instead of the columns of vehicles that you had previously seen with flags over the top, they have in fact — they’re a smart adversary and they have seen that that is not affective for their survival — so they are now dispersing themselves to allow themselves, the situations, to be more survivable,” said Gen. Harrigian, assistant deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements.
That strategic shift has forced the U.S. military to work harder to locate Islamic State militants “and then to develop the situation to appropriately target them,” he said.
Adm. Kirby said Tuesday that the U.S. military has noticed that coalition airstrikes are “having a very tactical affect” on the militants, who are still “grabbing ground.”
The Pentagon spokesman declined to describe the strategic adjustments the military has made to track and destroy the militants. Instead, he noted that the U.S. military is prepared to modify its tactics in order to stamp them out.
“Everyone talks about them being an adaptive enemy, but we’re pretty adaptive here, too,” he said.