A top military official said Friday that the amount of troops in Iraq will likely increase. The announcement came following the death of the Islamic State’s finance minister, Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli. According to a report from the Associated Press, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave the following statement to Pentagon reporters.
“The secretary and I both believe that there will be an increase in U.S. forces in Iraq in coming weeks, but that decision hasn’t been made,” Dunford was quoted as saying during a briefing.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter also appeared at the briefing with Dunford and he confirmed the death of al-Qaduli, who he described as being a “well-known terrorist” who had a hand in terrorist plots outside of Iraq and Syria. He also said he was not aware of any link between him and the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels.
“We are systematically eliminating ISIL’s cabinet,” Carter said.
The U.S. killed several key ISIS leaders recently, including its so-called "minister of war," the Pentagon says pic.twitter.com/IpQ3LJaaBw
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) March 25, 2016
Although Dunford explained to reporters that recommendations on ways to increase U.S. support for Iraq’s ground fight against ISIS will be discussed with President Barack Obama in the coming days, he didn’t give any figures as to how big that troop increase might be.
According to Dunford, officials are optimistic because there has been “indisputable” momentum against the terrorist group in recent weeks, as coalition airstrikes and Iraqi ground forces target the group’s leaders, command and control structure, and financing.
“By no means would I say that we are about to break the back of ISIL or that the fight is over,” Dunford said.
The website Mother Jones said Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli was on the list of potential successors of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He was considered the top leader of the group after its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was reportedly wounded in an airstrike last year.
— Al-Masdar News (@TheArabSource) March 27, 2016
The United States Department of Justice offered a $7 million reward for information on al-Qaduli. The state department said he was responsible for systematic human rights abuses, including mass executions, rape, and the killing of children. The highest reward offered under the Rewards for Justice scheme was up to $25 million for Ayman al-Zawahiri who was named leader of al-Qaeda in June, 2011, shortly after Osama Bin Laden’s death.
The command structure of the jihadist organization remains an enigma, although U.S. authorities appear to have identified a few of the leaders of the Islamic State.
Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli is the second member of this list to be eliminated in less than a month. On March 4, U.S. military officials announced the death of Omar al Shishani, or “Omar the Chechen,” another leader of the jihadist group that was also part of the list of top leaders.
Dunford also announced that several key members of the Islamic State were eliminated this week. Two of the finance minister’s associates were also killed in a U.S. raid in Syria. The finance minister is known by several names: Abdul-Rahman Mustafa Mohammed, Haji Iman, Haji Imam, Abu Iman, Haji Ayman, and Abu Alaa al-Afari.
When questioned about the impact of the latest killings, Carter said it was important “but not sufficient.”
“Leaders can be replaced,” Carter told reporters. “However, these leaders have been around for a long time. They are senior, they are experienced, and so eliminating them is an important objective and it achieves an important result. The removal of this ISIL leader will hamper the organization’s ability to conduct operations both inside and outside Iraq and Syria. Indeed, the U.S. military killed several key ISIL terrorists this week, including we believe Haji Iman, who was an ISIL senior leader serving as a finance minister and who also was responsible for some external affairs and plots.”
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