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U.S. senior envoy for Iraq: every time we've engaged with local forces we’ve succeeded in defeating ISIS

November 4th, 2014
04:00 PM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

The U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS has succeeded in defeating the terrorist organization every time it has worked with local forces on the ground, Brett McGurk, the U.S. Deputy Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.

"What I can say is that every single time we have worked with a local force on the ground and we have coordinated with them with our special forces who are in the field, and we have coordinated with them with our air coalition above, we have succeeded in defeating ISIL, not only defeating ISIL, but actually routing them in some major battles,” he said.

McGurk described the operation against the terrorist group, which has recently seized vast swathes of Iraq and Syria and executed hundreds of religious minorities, as “very much a fight to the death.”

“We are in this for the long haul. And we are going to degrade ISIL and degrading them will take time. And then we're going to defeat them,” he added.

“If you look at where ISIS was in June - pouring down the Tigris Valley, threatening Baghdad, pouring down the Euphrates Valley, threatening Baghdad - we secured the defenses of Baghdad. Iraqi security forces are now starting to push up the Tigris Valley and they're making a lot of significant gains, particularly in the Kurdistan region,” Ambassador McGurk said.

He also told Amanpour about the situation on the ground.

“What is happening now is there is an ongoing operation from Baghdad up to [the Iraqi city of] Baiji. You might recall the Baiji refinery has been under siege since June.”

“There's been about 150 Iraqi Special Forces soldiers and also regular army soldiers and some tribal elements and also some militias that have been holed up in the Baiji refinery and they have fought off repeated major assaults from ISIL since June.”

McGurk also said that the U.S. is engaging “with the tribes in Anbar province to begin to turn the tide against ISIL in Anbar province,” which has been largely overrun by ISIS.

“That's going to be a very difficult operation, but it's ongoing,” he said.

Yazidis are reported to be desperate for help as ISIS tries to expel them from Mount Sinjar in Iraq.

“Sinjar Mountain remains a concern. It's a concern because ISIL wants to commit atrocities upon the Yazidis upon that mountain. However, we are watching Sinjar Mountain very carefully,” McGurk said.

McGurk seemed confident that Qatar, which has been accused of funding ISIS militants, is standing by the U.S. and its allies.

“We saw the foreign minister of Qatar and others to talk about the financing to extremist groups. And they're fully committed to this coalition,” he said.

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Iraq • Latest Episode • Syria
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