The head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency said Friday that the Islamic State militants are well-armed and well-financed, but not invincible.
John Brennan told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York that the militants are disciplined and battled-hardened and will not be stopped overnight. But he said the U.S.-led coalition airstrikes have "softened" many of the IS forces and there are serious signs that its "engine is suffering."
"The great image of ISIL [Islamic State] in terms of its being able to prevail and be successful inside of Iraq and Syria is being pierced, because we see that they are having setbacks," Brennan said. "We see there is some dissension the ranks. We see that a lot of the requirements that are attendant to having control of territory and having the responsibility to run it administratively is not really the strong suit of some of these thugs who are joining the bandwagon."
In Iraq, government forces pressed on with their massive offensive to retake Tikrit, where fighters from the Islamic State group have reportedly begun to lose ground.
Baghdad officials continued to express confidence they would soon completely retake the city, which has strategic and symbolic value as the hometown of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
As many as 30,000 Iraqi troops and Iranian-backed Shi'ite militia members have surrounded the city and retaken several areas.
Map of Tikrit showing the direction of advance of the Iraqi forces
The multifront offensive, now in its second week, has been slowed by snipers and booby traps set by Islamic State fighters. On Friday, six soldiers were reportedly killed in a suicide car bombing.
Meanwhile, in Turkey, the government said 16 Indonesians — most of them children — have been detained while attempting to cross into Syria to join the Islamic State group. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Friday that security forces were still looking for another 16 Indonesians reported missing in Turkey.
Cavusoglu also commented on Turkey's detention of a man accused of helping three British schoolgirls cross into Syria from Turkey last month to join the Islamic State group. He said the man is a Syrian citizen who worked for the intelligence service of a country that is part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State militants, but did not specify which of the more than 60 nations in the coalition was employing him.
The U.S.-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against the extremist group, which has taken over large parts of Iraq and Syria, but the coalition has stayed out of the battle for Tikrit.
Capturing Tikrit, about 200 kilometers from Baghdad, would give a geographic advantage to the Iraqi government before an anticipated offensive against militants in Mosul in the coming months.