BALTIMORE, Jan 29, (RTRS): The US-led battle against Islamic State militants controlling parts of Iraq and Syria is gaining steam and will show more progress by year’s end, Vice- President Joe Biden said on Thursday. Biden touted the recent success of US efforts backing Iraqi troops against the Islamic State in Iraq as part of a broad defense of 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 US House of Representatives Democrats, in Baltimore for a three-day retreat. Iraqi forces, boosted by US training, have evicted insurgents from large parts of Ramadi, leading to speculation that they could have success elsewhere against the Islamic State. “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.” ISIL is one of the acronyms referring to Islamic State. 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 Erdogan, but Erdogan has seen the Lord.
Things are changing because of self-interest.” Biden and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan discussed ways to deepen cooperation in the fight against Islamic State in a meeting in Istanbul on Saturday, according to a White House statement on Sunday. The United States and its allies staged two dozen strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on Thursday, the coalition leading the operations said in a statement on in its latest daily attack on the militant group. Fourteen strikes near seven Iraqi cities included five near Ramadi that hit one IS tactical unit and two vehicles, a bunker, and an improvised explosive device.
In other cities, including Mosul and Sinjar, the strikes hit four tactical units and a building used by the militants, among other targets, the statement released on Friday said. In Syria, 10 strikes near five cities hit seven tactical units. Near Ar Raqqah, a strike hit a gas and oil separation plant, while near Palmyra a strike hit an improvised explosives manufacturing area, the statement said. The international community may be too focused on fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq to see the country’s ‘overwhelming’ humanitarian needs, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said. Humanitarian aid should be scaled up in proportion to the escalation of military operations, otherwise the gap between the needs and the aid that is being provided will widen further, the charity said.
“The international community is too focused, probably, on the fight against ISIS … that the importance … of increasing the humanitarian assistance is not taken into account,” Fabio Forgione, MSF’s head of mission in Iraq, said in London late on Wednesday. “It is .. important to make sure that humanitarian assistance grows in parallel to the military operations which are carried out,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone. Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIS, ISIL or DAESH, swept through one-third of Iraq in June 2014 and declared a “caliphate” in territory it controlled in both Iraq and Syria, carrying out mass killings and imposing a draconian form of Islam