Biden projects progress in struggle against ISIL
BALTIMORE / WASHINGTON - Reuters
AP photoThe U.S.-led battle against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants controlling parts of Iraq and Syria is gaining steam and will show more progress by year’s end, Vice President Joe Biden has said.
Biden touted Jan. 28 the recent success of U.S. efforts backing Iraqi troops against ISIL in Iraq as part of a broad defense of President Barack Obama administration foreign policy.
“I promise you, after Ramadi, watch what happens now in Raqqa in Syria and what happens in Mosul [Iraq], by end of this year,” he told U.S. House of Representatives Democrats, in Baltimore for a three-day retreat.
Iraqi forces, boosted by U.S. training, have evicted insurgents from large parts of Ramadi, leading to speculation that they could have success elsewhere against the ISIL.
“We’ve taken back collectively 40 percent of the territory they occupy,” Biden said.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, asked about Biden’s remarks, said he had not yet heard them.
But he added, “Obviously, we’re going to need to get ISIL leaders out of Mosul and out of Raqqa and that’s a significant task. We know that they’ve been dug into those cities for a while now, and that means it’s going to be hard to dig them out.”
Biden: Erdoğan has seen the Lord
The Democratic vice president attributed recent successes to more engagement by European countries and Turkey.
“The president has finally got the attention of Europeans to pony up because they haven’t been doing much of anything,” Biden said, adding, “I spend too much time probably with President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan, but Erdoğan has seen the Lord. Things are changing because of self-interest.”
Biden and Turkish President Erdoğan discussed ways to deepen cooperation in the fight against ISIL in a meeting in Istanbul on Jan. 23.
Obama, meanwhile, directed his national security advisers on Jan. 28 to counter efforts by ISIL to expand into Libya and other countries, the White House said.
ISIL militants have taken advantage of chaos in Libya to establish themselves in the city of Sirte, and they have carried out several attacks on oil installations this month.
“The President directed his national security team to continue efforts to strengthen governance and support ongoing counterterrorism efforts in Libya and other countries where ISIL has sought to establish a presence,” the White House statement said.
Earlier on Jan. 28, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a news conference that ISIL was establishing training sites in Libya and welcoming foreign fighters the way it had done in Iraq and Syria in years past.
“And we don’t want to be on a glide slope to a situation like Syria and Iraq. That’s the reason why we’re watching it that closely. That’s the reason why we develop options for what we might do in the future,” Carter said.