Pentagon: Baghdad attack does not alter counter-Islamic State strategy
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon foresees no changes to its strategy to defeat the Islamic State group despite a string of massive attacks over the last week that killed hundreds of people in Iraq and threatens to upend that country’s government.
On Sunday, a truck bomb detonated in an upscale, predominantly Shiite shopping district in Baghdad killed an estimated 200 people, injured hundreds of others and quickly led to the resignation of the country’s interior minister. Then, as Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi tried to visit the bombing site and pay respects, his convoy was pelted with rocks, according to news reports.
Several news outlets reported the attacks have increased Iraqis' frustration with their government’s inability to prevent large-scale bombings or protect Baghdad.
The attacks could potentially convince the Iraqi government to pull back some of the forces that it has sent to attack Mosul and redirect them to protect Baghdad. On Monday, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said the United States remains committed to pushing forward to Mosul with the Iraqi Security Forces.
“The Iraqi Security Forces and Prime Minister Abadi has been clear about the need not only to conduct the operations in Fallujah but also to continue to push to the north, while at the same time trying to maintain security in Baghdad,” Cook said. “We’re confident that working closely with the Iraqi Security Forces, the Iraqi government that we can continue to pressure [the Islamic State group] on multiple fronts at the same time.”
The Baghdad bombing followed attacks in Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Turkey in the last week that collectively killed at least 65 people and injured hundreds more.
The Pentagon had cautioned previously that the Islamic State group was likely to conduct these kinds of high-profile attacks as the terrorist group continues to lose territory in Iraq and Syria.
Cook said Secretary of Defense Ash Carter was not surprised the attacks took place and the U.S. military will assess the situation. He said there is no change in strategy at this point.
“Sadly, we are not surprised that [the Islamic State group] is able to strike in some fashion like this,” Cook said. “We’ll do what we can to adjust if needed but our basic strategy remains the same. To get rid of [the Islamic State group] and its parent tumor in Iraq and Syria … to try and prevent the spread of the cancer of [the Islamic State group] and to do what we can working with our partners here in the United States and other parts of the world to protect the homeland.”