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Islamic State blunted by U.S. efforts, says Pentagon

On Monday, Iraq launched an operation to retake Tikrit, its biggest offensive yet against the Islamic State militants who have controlled portions of Syria and Iraq since last summer. A dozen nations have launched thousands of airstrikes against the group, allowing Iraq's military to slowly retake a little of what it lost. Judy Woodruff reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now to the challenging international mission to defeat the Islamic State group.

    We explore the U.S.-led coalition effort, and Iran's role in Iraqi military offensives, including the biggest one to date.

    The battle to retake Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, began Monday.

  • ALI HUSSEIN (through interpreter):

    Our troops are now advancing according to the drawn-up plan, though there are so many bombs planted by Islamic State militants to hinder our progress.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Shiite militiamen have joined the offensive, directed in part by a top Iranian general. American warplanes have stayed out of the fight by Baghdad's choice. The extremists still control much of Northern and Eastern Syria and Northern Iraq, seized last summer.

    But, since then, a dozen nations have flown more than 2,000 airstrikes in the two countries. Backed by that airpower, Iraq's military has slowly retaken a little of what it lost. The country's second largest city, Mosul, captured last June, remains in the hands of ISIS fighters.

    Two weeks ago, a U.S. Central Command official suggested a campaign to retake Mosul could come in April. That comment was later rescinded by Pentagon officials, including the new defense secretary himself yesterday.

    ASHTON CARTER, Secretary of Defense: That clearly was not — neither accurate information, nor, had it been accurate, would have it been information that should be blurted out to the press.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Today, an irritated Iraqi defense minister said Baghdad, and no one else, will decide when to attack Mosul.

    In Syria, meanwhile, Kurdish militia fighters have pushed ISIS back from Kobani, near the Turkish border. In turn, the militants, also known as ISIL, have beheaded hostages and carried out mass executions.

    But President Obama's special envoy to the coalition, retired Marine General John Allen, says the atrocities won't work.

    GEN. JOHN ALLEN (RET.), Special Presidential Envoy: The series of brutal acts ISIL has broadcast to the world has, in fact, galvanized the coalition to greater action.

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