U.S. forces this month killed the Islamic State's "finance minister" who was believed to be second to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the terror group's chain of command, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Friday.
The death of Haji Imam, whose real name is believed to be Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Mustafa al-Qaduli, gave evidence that "we are systematically eliminating ISIL's cabinet," Carter said, using another acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
Carter declined to say whether Haji Imam was killed in Iraq or Syria, or whether the operation was an air strike or a Special Operations raid, but said "we've now taken out the leader who oversees the funding."
At a Pentagon news conference with Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, Carter also confirmed that a separate action by U.S. forces earlier this month had killed Omar al-Shishani, also known as "Omar the Chechen," who was believed to be the ISIS' war minister.
Dunford said the deaths of the two leaders showed that the U.S. campaign to defeat ISIS was gathering momentum, adding that requests to send more U.S. troops to back offensives by local forces in Iraq and Syria would be made to President Barack Obama in the coming weeks.
The chairman said the death last Saturday of Marine Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin, who was killed by ISIS rocket fire at a new firebase in northern Iraq, came about as part of the U.S. effort to support the Iraqi Security Forces in operations aimed at retaking the ISIS stronghold of Mosul.
Dunford repeatedly said that the deployment of about 200 Marines from an artillery battery of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit did not mark a new stage in the campaign against ISIS. He said that firing artillery in support of the Iraqis was no different than conducting airstrikes.
"I just cannot see this as being inconsistent with what we've been doing for the last couple of months," he said. "To me there's no inconsistency to what this artillery unit did and what our aviation forces do every day."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.