ISIS militant group's cause is lost: US President Obama

US President Barack Obama arrives to speak at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
US President Barack Obama arrives to speak at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is on the defensive and "their cause is lost," US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday (April 13) after meeting CIA chiefs and other security officials.

Mr Obama paid a rare visit to CIA headquarters in Virginia to discuss progress of Operation Inherent Resolve, the 20-month-old US-led campaign against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria.

"ISIL is on the defensive, and we are on the offensive," Mr Obama said, using another acronym for ISIS. "We have momentum, and we intend to keep that momentum."

He pointed to recent US air strikes that killed three senior militant leaders and a report this week showing the group's ranks are at their lowest level since 2014.

"In the days and weeks ahead we intend to take out more (leaders.) Every day, ISIL leaders wake up and understand it could be their last," he said.

"Their ranks of fighters are estimated to be at the lowest levels in two years and more and more are realising that their cause is lost," he added.

Mr Obama stressed the importance of ending the five-year civil war in Syria as key to facilitating a lasting defeat of the ISIS group.

"So we continue to work for a diplomatic end to this awful conflict," he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Baghdad-based spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said the US-led coalition campaign had successfully entered the second "phase" of operations.

The coalition is working through three main steps as it wages its 20-month-old fight against the IS group, Col Warren said.

"Our enemy has been weakened and we now are working to fracture him. Phase one of the military campaign is complete," he told Pentagon reporters, noting that this initial step was to "degrade" the ISIS by stopping it from making additional territorial gains.

"We are now in phase two, which is to dismantle this enemy," he added.

Col Warren said the final phase of the campaign is to ensure the ISIS is dealt a lasting defeat, primarily by enabling local forces to prevent a resurgence of jihadist influence.

Though the ISIS maintains a firm grip on vast areas of the two countries, the militants have suffered some serious setbacks including the loss of Ramadi in Iraq.

"While ISIL can still put together some complex attacks, they have not been able to take hold of any key terrain for almost a year now," Col Warren said.