Islamic State (IS) has lost around 25 percent of the territory it once controlled in Iraq, according to the Pentagon. The news comes after months of airstrikes by the United States-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State group, also know by its acronym ISIL.
The Pentagon said that the territory lost by Islamic State amounts to around 13,000 to 17,000 square kilometers (5,000 to 6,500 square miles).
“ISIL is now being slowly pushed back,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said. “Iraqi security forces and coalition airpower have unquestionably inflicted some damage on ISIL,” he added.
Since August, the coalition has hit 3,244 Islamic State targets in Iraq and 1,879 in Syria, with the Pentagon saying is has conducted nearly 80 percent of the strikes
While progress is being made on the ground in Iraq, with the government and Shia militias recapturing Tikrit, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has arrived in Washington for talks with President Barack Obama. In his first official trip to the United States since taking office last year, al-Abadi is expected to ask for billions of dollars worth of aid, arms and assistance to fight Islamic State
The White House said on Monday that it was prepared to listen to al-Abadi’s request on Tuesday.
“If there are specific ideas that Prime Minister al-Abadi has for stepped-up assistance, then we’ll obviously consider them seriously,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
“And our success in working with an inclusive Iraqi government has been important to some of the security gains that Iraq has realized against ISIL in the last few months,” Earnest said
While recapturing Tikrit and other areas from Islamic State, the bigger battle ahead for al-Abadi is in retaking Mosul and Anbar Province. Efforts to win over Sunni tribesman, especially in Anbar, is seen as crucial in defeating IS.
“More efforts to organize, arm and integrate the Sunnis willing to fight ISIL are going to be needed in the months ahead to liberate Anbar and Mosul,” Vice President Joe Biden said last Thursday.
During the meeting, Obama is expected to push al-Abadi on forming an inclusive government, something the prime minster’s predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, failed to do. The lack of such a government allowed Islamic State to capture territory in Iraq and thrive amid Sunni discontent, including in Mosul and in Anbar.