WASHINGTON- Iraq's prime minister said on Wednesday that the Islamic State remains a fierce adversary as he outlined plans during a trip to Washington to prioritize battles in the refinery city of Baiji and Anbar province, where the militants are striking back.
Haidar al-Abadi, speaking to reporters a day after meeting US President Barack Obama, portrayed a mixed picture of a weakening Islamic State eight months after US-led air strikes against the group began in Iraq.
The United States estimates Islamic State has lost about a quarter of the populated areas it seized in Iraq. Abadi himself recently declared a major victory by taking back the city of Tikrit.
Asked whether Islamic State's defeat was in sight as major campaign milestones approach, Abadi was measured, saying the group was on that path, but still showed some resilience and was proving "very mobile."
"They (are) ideologized ... and their backs are against a wall. So they are putting (up) very fierce fighting," he said.
Iraqi authorities believe Islamic State recruitment among foreigners, as a percentage of the entire force, has increased dramatically in recent months, in what Abadi said may be a sign that recruitment among Iraqis was thinning.