"'[W]e just haven't rolled back the Islamic state at all over the last six or seven months, which would begin our air campaign. They've continued to hold the ground they've always had. They haven't advanced. But we're not holding back either. And that's not going to be enough to defeat them. [...] [T]he Islamic state seems to be winning right now. They're appealing to disaffected, alienated youth around the country who want to be with what they see as the winning horse."
[The senator's assessment] is, in fact, the exact opposite of what is occurring. ISIS is losing substantial ground in Iraq, and it's hard to imagine why Cotton is insisting otherwise. Let's start with his claim that ISIS "hasn't been rolled back" in the past six or seven months. Here are a few places where ISIS has, in fact, been rolled back: (1) In August, ISIS lost control of the Mosul Dam, a critical part of northern Iraq's infrastructure. (2) In October, Iraqis pushed ISIS out of Jurf al-Sakhar, a former ISIS stronghold near Baghdad. (3) In January, Kurdish forces took Kiske, a northern town that sits on a critical ISIS supply line between its territory in Syria and Iraq. (4) In April, Iraqi forces pushed ISIS out of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown and a major Sunni city. [...] Cotton's implication that American airstrikes have played no role in hurting ISIS is also quite clearly wrong. [Iraq expert Michael Knights called] "Western air/intel" a "key determinant" of ISIS's defeats, as it "greatly reduces [ISIS's] ability to surprise, evade, [and] counterattack" against increasingly effective Iraqi forces.