Despite a series of deadly bombings in Baghdad killing more than 200 people in the past week, a U.S. military spokesman in the Iraqi capital told reporters Wednesday that no additional U.S. troops are needed to bolster security and protect assets like the U.S. embassy.
“We don't believe we need any additional security. We believe that the security that we have in place is adequate to the threat,” Col. Steve Warren told Fox News.
Warren said the recent bombings against Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad were proof that ISIS is moving in a different direction.
“These attacks appear to be a shift in ISIL's tactics,” said Warren. “ISIL wants to throw punches that land. To do this, they appear to have chosen to revert to some of their terrorist roots.” ISIL is another name for ISIS, or the Islamic State, which is a Sunni Muslim terror group.
Warren said the recent ISIS bombings have not impacted American or Iraqi forces fighting ISIS. He said senior U.S. military leaders requested that no Iraqi forces fighting ISIS across Iraq return to the capital and, so far, the Iraqis appear to be honoring that request.
“We have not seen the Iraqi government redeploy any troops to Baghdad. There was some discussion of it, but they changed their mind,” said Warren. “So, as of now, none of the field forces have returned to Baghdad.” But Warren acknowledged that half of the Iraqi security forces already are protecting the capital.
Despite recent military victories against ISIS, Warren said the terror group continues to control Fallujah, located an hour to the west and a place where ISIS can plan future attacks on Baghdad.
Warren said ISIS territory had been reduced by 45 percent in Iraq to date, only a 5 percentage point change in the past five months. President Obama announced at the Pentagon in December that the U.S.-led coalition had taken back 40 percent of ISIS-held territory in Iraq.
An area where Warren said the U.S. military was exceling was killing ISIS leadership. Warren said 120 “high-value” ISIS fighters had been killed in U.S. airstrikes to date.
Warren said two “mid-level” ISIS commanders were killed on May 13.
Warren said the U.S.-led coalition has trained 31,000 Iraqi security forces to date and 3,800 Iraqi soldiers are in training currently, the most at one time. Warren said over 1,000 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have been trained in the past month and another 1,100 are currently in training.
Warren said Iraqi troops recently pushed a few hundred ISIS fighters out of Rutbah, a city in Anbar province in western Iraq along a highway leading to Jordan, roughly 80 miles from the border.
Warren estimated that ISIS has 20,000-25,000 fighters split between both Iraq and Syria. The majority of fighters in Iraq are in Mosul, he said.