Washington: The elimination of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi would help decimate and defeat the terror organisation which has gained control over a large part of Syria and Iraq, a top US commander said on Friday.
"He (Baghdadi) is a leader that I think if you eliminate him then it becomes more difficult for them to get done what needs to be done," General Lloyd James Austin, Commander of the US Central Command, told Pentagon reporters.
Noting that these elements have the ability to regenerate leadership, Austin said going after Baghdadi is something that the US forces must do but that is not enough to deal with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State as it is known as across the globe.
"You have to take away their ability to sustain themselves, finance themselves. You have to slow or stop the flow of foreign fighters coming and going. That generates a pool of manpower for them that's been very, very helpful for them," Austin said.
"We learned from countering al Qaeda in Iraq that if you can begin to do these things in a meaningful way, plus going after command and control, then I think you begin to have some serious effects," the General said in response to a question.
The US forces continue to pound ISIL positions in Iraq and Syria, with the focus being on Kobani, the Syrian town on the Turkish border.
The intent of the expanded airstrikes is to degrade ISIL's capability and their ability to threaten US interests and the interests of its partners, he said.
"More specifically, we are enabling the efforts of the Iraqis in their fight against ISIL, acknowledging that, in addition to halting ISIL's advance, the Iraqis must secure the border. They must regenerate and restructure their forces to ensure that they are able to provide for the sovereignty of their country going forward. This represents our main focus right now -- enabling the efforts of the Iraqis," Austin said.
He said ISIL derives significant revenue from oil production.
"So by striking these types of facilities, we reduce their ability to generate the funds and the fuel required to sustain their operations. We are having the desired effects," the General said.
"We're seeing evidence of this not only in our battle damage assessments, but more important, we're noting changes in the enemy's behaviour and tactics that reflect his diminished capability and restricted freedom of movement. For example, we're no longer seeing them move around the country in large convoys," he said.
They are mostly traveling in civilian vehicles in smaller numbers. This is hindering their ability to mass and to shift combat power, Austin said.
"We've also seen them alter their methods of communication which is inhibiting their ability to coordinate and synchronise their efforts. And so we are having the desire effects, but this will take some time," he added.
The US Central Command General said in eight months to a year from now ISIL will be much degraded from what they are now.