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AFCENT briefs OIR effort in fight against ISIL

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- With significant progress and momentum in the U.S.-led coalition’s fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the enemy will try to challenge the coalition in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria, the commander of Operation Inherent Resolve’s combined force air component told reporters today.

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, said a tough fight against an “adaptive enemy” still lies ahead as the coalition hones in on Mosul and Raqqa. But using the complement of coalition airpower, “we will continue to deliver more destruction to (ISIL’s) command and control than they can absorb. We have gathered lessons from Manbij, and we will leverage the coordination with our partner ground forces (to) separate (ISIL) from the civilian populace, allowing us to remove tools of terror from the battlefield,” he said.

‘Most precise air campaign’

In an increasingly complex battlespace, OIR’s airpower remains “the most precise air campaign in history,” Harrigian said. “Our coalition includes various countries and multiple entities operating on land, sea, air, space and cyberspace domains, and all recognize that (ISIL) is an enemy that hides behind the civilian populace.”

The general said his focus remains on creating an insurmountably tough and complex set of problems for ISIL across Iraq and Syria.

“We will continue to shape the battlespace, going after their revenue streams, killing their leaders and creating organizational dysfunction,” he said. “We will seek to use the weight of airpower to remove (ISIL’s) legitimacy, shatter their vision and enable taking back the territory and resources they have stolen.”

Capitalizing on enemy errors

The war requires increased persistence and the ability to remain vigilant in efforts to capitalize on ISIL’s tactical errors, the general said.

As new and evolving ISIL capabilities are discovered, such as small, unmanned aerial systems, “we’ll take it off the battlefield,” Harrigian added.

“You can be sure we will continue to work closely with our coalition partners to ensure we’re preparing the battlespace, pursuing opportunities and ultimately prevailing,” he said.

Potential agreement with Russia

In addition to the complex air and battlespace in the OIR area of responsibility, there is a lot of activity across U.S. Central Command, such as a possible joint integration center with Russia, Harrigian said.

“The first step is a cessation of hostilities for seven days, and this is something the Russians and the regime must do, and they must do it properly,” the general said. The intelligence community will continue to monitor the cessation and ensure the U.S. is developing processes to execute the mission, “if we can get that far,” Harrigian added.

“We are in close coordination with U.S. Central Command, the (combined joint task force) OIR, and our fellow components to work the details,” the general said, adding that in such a complex battlespace, his intent is to not make it more complex.

“But this will take some work,” he added. “As the terms of reference are finalized, we will take the guidance, review it and build an operational plan that executes the mission precisely while minimizing risk to the coalition team and civilians on the ground.”

While the process is in its early stages, the U.S. will target specifics and assess resources to be able to execute in accordance with the agreement, Harrigian said.

“Our intent is to ensure we don’t impact coalition cohesion, our current momentum or the precision effects we demand,” he said. “We’re still working out the details, but these are areas that will be addressed.”