- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The U.S.-led coalition has killed 70 leaders of the Islamic State terror army, creating “paranoia” among fighters who are “afraid to move around the battlefield” in Syria-Iraq, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

Army Col. Steven Warren, based in Baghdad, told Pentagon reporters that “now is the time for a final push” by Iraqis into Ramadi, the Western Iraq city captured by the Islamic State last summer as government troops ran.

Col. Warren said in the ensuing months the U.S. has trained and equipped Iraqi forces to retake the town. They are now stationed in the Ramadi outskirts, roughly equivalent to being in Arlington with the objective of Washington.

“This is going to be a tough fight,” he said of a town held by about 1,000 terrorists.

The spokesman delivered an indictment of the two-week-old Russian bombing campaign over Syria. He said that in one area it has actually helped the Islamic State, also known as ISIL and ISIS, take territory from moderate Syrian rebels. In another case, the United Nations was forced to end humanitarian work.

“I find these airstrikes to be reckless and indiscriminate,” Col. Warren said.

He asserted that over 7,000 coalition airstrikes are hurting ISIL. “We’re drying up their bench,” he said. “It has degraded their ability to conduct operations.”

National security experts have said ISIL has developed layered operations in which dead emirs are quickly replaced by people just as skilled.

Col. Warren said the coalition is targeting HVIs, or high value individuals, killing them at the rate of one every other day.

“Not all is well in the so-called caliphate,” he said, adding that since Ramadi the terrorists have not gained “a millimeter” of new territory.

Still, he said, ISIL is estimated to have the same strength of 20,000 to 30,000 members.

Experts say it operates a relentless social media recruiting program that brings hundreds of new followers into Syria.

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