US Rocket Launchers Taking Toll on ISIS Truck Bombs, General Says

In this file photo taken Monday, June 23, 2014, militants from the Islamic State parade in a commandeered Iraqi security forces armored vehicle on a main street in Mosul, Iraq. (AP Photo, File)
In this file photo taken Monday, June 23, 2014, militants from the Islamic State parade in a commandeered Iraqi security forces armored vehicle on a main street in Mosul, Iraq. (AP Photo, File)

The rush shipment by the U.S. of shoulder-fired rocket launchers to the Iraqi Security Force (ISF) has been producing results in stopping ISIS' favored weapon -- the suicide truck bomb, a senior CentCom commander said Friday.

"We've already seen instances of them using these weapons to great effect," Marine Brig. Gen. Thomas Weidley said of the 2,000 AT-4 rocket launchers sent to Iraq last month.

The State Department initially said last month that 1,000 AT-4s would be shipped, but the Pentagon said later that 2,000 were being sent to the ISF as the threat from the truck bombs increased.

Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have been using trucks, captured U.S. Humvees and even bulldozers packed with explosives "to disrupt or penetrate ISF lines. It's an effective weapon," Weidley said.

ISIS used the truck bombs to devastating effect last month in breaching lines and routing the ISF from Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar province.

ISIS also used a new tactic -- tunneling -- in Ramadi, said Weidley, chief of staff for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, under U.S. Central Command.

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ISIS fighters dug under Iraqi targets and set off massive improvised explosive devices, Weidley said in a briefing by video to the Pentagon.

ISIS has also used tunneling in other areas to move supplies and destroy Iraqi positions. "We do see tunneling as a technique Daesh uses," Weidley said, using another term for ISIS. He said the U.S. was seeking to spot evidence of tunnels and hit them from the air.

Overall, "when we look at the battlespace, we see great things happening out there," Weidley said. He pointed to recent successes by Kurdish forces in driving ISIS out of Tal Abyad, a key supply route for ISIS on the Turkish border in Syria.

The ISF recently has shown resilience in pressing ISIS in and around the oil refinery city of Baiji north of Ramadi, Weidley said.

Weidley acknowledged that he made similar remarks last month in saying that ISIS was on the "defensive" only a few days before Ramadi fell.

Both sides are preparing for a new fight for Ramadi, Weidley said. ISIS is digging trenches and patrolling aggressively out of the city while the ISF seeks to seize road junctions and key terrain on the perimeter, he said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com.

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