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General: 82nd Airborne has made progress in fight against ISIS

Posted February 22

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— Hundreds of Fort Bragg troops have helped Iraqi forces regain portions of their country from Islamic State fighters in recent months, Maj. Gen. Richard Clarke, the commander of the Coalition Force in Iraq, said Monday.

Clarke, who also commands the 82nd Airborne Division, has led about 4,100 troops from 18 countries for the past nine months as the coalition tries to defeat ISIS. During that time, he has ordered more than 4,000 air strikes, including several on Monday, against ISIS forces.

ISIS has lost 40 percent of the territory it once controlled, and the air campaign has been a key in Iraq regaining control of its homeland, he said.

"Eighty-five percent or more of our air strikes are in direct support of the Iraqi security forces on the ground," Clarke said in a telephone interview with WRAL News.

The remainder of the air strikes have been aimed at derailing the enemy's fighting resources, such as banks, oil refineries and explosives factories, he said.

The 82nd Airborne Division forces have moved more than 1.2 tons of ammunition and delivered more than 3.4 million gallons of fuel to support the effort and have trained about 16,000 Iraqi security forces.

"That's where we get the lasting impact is ensuring that the Iraqis that we're training at all levels are ready for this to stick and this to hold," Clarke said.

Clarke, who also fought in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm 25 years ago, will turn over command of the coalition forces to the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Ky., in a few weeks.

He said his troops are looking forward to coming home – about 70 returned to Fort Bragg last Friday – but they wouldn't be surprised if the 82nd Airborne Division has to return to Iraq in the future, noting ISIS has been weakened but remains very dangerous.


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