WASHINGTON, May 10, 2017 —
Partnered forces in Syria and Iraq are making progress in defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve said today.
The Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian Arab Coalition have liberated most of the Syrian city of Tabqa, Air Force Col. John Dorrian told Pentagon reporters via videoconference from Baghdad.
The partnered forces are clearing ISIS remnants from the final two neighborhoods of Tabqa, cutting off the Tabqa dam from the rest of the city and isolating the remaining terrorists there, Dorrian explained.
"Even as ISIS is completely isolated and ultimately eliminated from Tabqa, their tactics continue to create incalculable human suffering," he said.
Dorrian said about 30,000 of the city's residents have been displaced from their homes since the battle for the city started in late March. Protecting the civilians who remain in Tabqa is an important priority, he told reporters.
"Tabqa is an extremely dangerous battle zone," the colonel said, explaining the SDF are encountering ISIS snipers who are using apartment buildings, hospitals and mosques to mask their position in the dense urban terrain.
Tabqa Important in Liberation of Raqqa
Dorrian highlighted the importance of finishing the seizure of Tabqa and the Tabqa dam in relation to the eventual liberation of Raqqa. ISIS terrorists used the area to facilitate ISIS fighters in Raqqa, he explained.
"They used it for supply, command and control, and to reinforce their fighters in Raqqa, so it's good that the Syrian Democratic Forces and Syrian Arab Coalition are making good progress in retaking that terrain," he said. "After Tabqa is completely liberated, the Syrian Democratic Forces and Syrian Arab Coalition and coalition forces will continue operations to isolate and seize Raqqa."
Coalition strikes this week in Raqqa destroyed a number of ISIS boats and barges, as well as heavy construction equipment that ISIS is using to build berms and barriers to try to complicate operations for the liberation of that key Syrian city, he said.
Iraqi Forces Advance in West Mosul
Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces are making progress as they move in on west Mosul on multiple axes. Their advance is presenting the terrorists with "more dilemmas then they can react to," Dorrian said.
"Iraqi security forces have continued advancing in west Mosul, after the 9th Iraqi Armored Division and Iraqi Federal Police started a new axis of advance in northwest Mosul last week," he said. "We've also seen the Iraqi counterterrorism service accelerate their advances into the industrial section of west Mosul."
The Iraqi forces liberated more than 18 miles of terrain in west Mosul this week, Dorrian said, adding that although the enemy is weakened, a tough fight remains.
"As the [Iraqi security forces] advance, they continue encountering tough resistance from enemy snipers, enemy vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and human shields," Dorrian said, noting that Iraqi citizens fleeing the fighting have reported these enemy tactics.
It is difficult to predict how long the liberation of Mosul will take, he said. "But we are seeing the enemy's defenses degraded with each passing day," he added.
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter @FerdinandoDoD)