- The Washington Times - Monday, June 8, 2015

Iraqi forces have made progress in driving Islamic State fighters out of the city of Baiji and the nearby oil refinery, though the fight is far from over, the Pentagon said Monday.

Col. Steve Warren, Pentagon spokesman, said that friendly forces are beginning to systematically move through the city of Baiji to root Islamic State fighters out of the city that has been contested for nearly a year.

Iraqi fighters have also opened up a key supply route to the oil refinery outside Baiji that allows them reinforce the troops holding the refinery with equipment and additional personnel, he said.

“This fight is not over,” Col. Warren said. “But the momentum in both places has shifted to friendly forces.”

It is primarily Iraqi Security Forces fighting at the refinery and mostly Shiite militias under the control of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence in the city itself, he said.

The progress in Baiji comes less than a month after Iraqi forces suffered a substantial loss when Ramadi fell into terrorist control in May, leading many, including the secretary of defense, to question the Iraqi forces willingness and ability to step up and secure their own country.

Col. Warren said Iraqi forces have “not yet entered” Ramadi, but that shaping operations are continuing outside the city to begin an offensive to retake the city.

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