ISIS lost one percent of Iraq territory, says U.S.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi government troops have retaken 700 square kilometers of ground
ISIS jihadists have lost only a tiny fraction of captured territory in Iraq after five months of U.S.-led air strikes, the Pentagon said Friday.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi government troops have retaken 700 square kilometers of ground mostly in northern Iraq, but the ISIS group still holds 55,000 square kilometers, spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters.
That amounts to roughly one percent of ISIS-held territory changing hands since the U.S. launched air raids in Iraq on August 8.
Kirby acknowledged that not much ground had been gained back so far but said that the air strikes had halted the momentum of the jihadists and bought time for the training of Baghdad government forces.
"I think we all recognize that it's a small percentage of the total right now. But we're only six, seven months into this thing, too," he said.
The U.S. military has made clear the campaign against ISIS "is going to take time, to uproot these guys and to really get at them," he said.
The Pentagon provided the figures after announcing recently that Iraqi and Kurdish troops had regained 700 square kilometers, without explaining what percentage that represented of all territory held by the ISIS militants.
By comparison, the Iraqi government held about 77,000 square kilometers and the Kurdish forces controlled roughly 56,000 square kilometers, he said.
Those numbers did not represent the entire territory of Iraq, but only populated, "relevant" areas, according to Kirby.
U.S. commanders have said that the Iraqi army needed to be reorganized and armed before staging a major counter-offensive to roll back the ISIS from large swathes of territory it seized last year.
The officer overseeing the U.S.-led campaign against the ISIS group, General Lloyd Austin, head of Central Command, told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that Iraqi forces would be ready to launch a counter-offensive to recapture the northern city of Mosul by the summer.
Since August 8, there have been nearly 2,000 air strikes in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, with American warplanes carrying out more than 1,600 of those raids, defense officials said.
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