- The Washington Times - Monday, November 30, 2020

Coalition forces in Iraq are contending with the global COVID-19 pandemic even as they continue the fight against ISIS, the deputy commander for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve said Monday.

During an online presentation with the Washington-based Middle East Institute, Maj. Gen. Kevin Copsey - a British Army officer - said the coronavirus pandemic has had some effect on their operations.

“But surprisingly, the Iraqis have not missed a beat with COVID. It’s been absolutely humbling,” Maj. Gen. Copsey said. “Yet, they still adhere to the right protocols.”

He said the local troops - who have assumed the lion’s share of the combat missions - are continuing to put pressure on ISIS fighters.

“The day-to-day operations are done by Iraqis or (Syian Democratic Forces,) Maj. Gen. Copsey said. “As we see the twilight of our mission there, I have no doubt they have the ability to keep going.”

He said there was a direct connection between the reduction of U.S. troops and the decision to deploy Bradley armored fighting vehicles to the region. He called it an “inflection point” for the operation.

“Even though we may lack numbers, we still have the ability and commitment to get after” ISIS, Maj. Gen. Copsey said.

With the U.S. government likely to change administrations in just over two months, Maj. Gen. Copsey said the situation in Iraq is moving into what he called a “period of potential miscalculation.” Militant groups could, “incite a violent act which would force a reaction from the coalition,” he said.

The mission known as Operation Inherent Resolve was established in 2014 when ISIS controlled an area the size of Great Britain and kept millions of people in bondage. Now they are a spent force due in no small part to the international coalition that arrayed against them, Maj. Gen. Copsey said.

“We are in the twilight of what has been a successful military campaign,” he said.

• Mike Glenn can be reached at mglenn@washingtontimes.com.

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