WASHINGTON – A year after Islamic State declared a caliphate on territory seized in Iraq and Syria, the al Qaeda splinter group faces military pressure from a US-led coalition but remains a potent force holding key cities, the Pentagon said on Monday.
Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Defense Department spokesman, said the militant group has lost a quarter of the land it controlled at the
height of its expansion and has broken and run on several occasions in northern Syria in the face of an offensive by Kurdish-led forces. But Islamic State militants still control the Iraqi city of Mosul, where leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appeared last July to declare himself the head of the new caliphate, which had been proclaimed on June 29, 2014. The group recently captured the key Sunni city of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s vast western province of Anbar. “It’s a tough fight. We said a year ago that we expected this fight to expel ISIL from Iraq to be a fight that takes years, with an ‘s’. Years,” Warren said, using an alternate acronym for the extremist group. “ISIL has lost well over 25 percent of the territory that they held at the height of their incursion into Iraq. We have destroyed thousands of pieces of equipment,” he added. “We believe that we are having impact.”