HomeMEDIANEWS ARTICLESNews Article View

Local forces restricting ISIL movement in Iraq, Syria

By Cheryl Pellerin, DoD News

PRINT  |  E-MAIL

June 9, 2016 — WASHINGTON, June 8, 2016 — Local forces in Iraq and Syria are pressuring the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant at multiple points on the battlefield, restricting the terrorist army’s mobility and options, the Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman said Wednesday.

Speaking via on Skype from Baghdad, Army Col. Christopher Garver told Pentagon reporters the coalition sees increased pressure in Iraq and Syria.

“As we've said all along, the goal is to increase that pressure, making the enemy fight in multiple directions at once,” he said, adding that the multifaceted push has made it harder for the ISIL fighters to move and harder for them to reinforce their numbers.

“Everywhere we've got pressure, that's a place that you can't send fighters from,” Garver said. “We still have operations going on in the Euphrates River Valley in Iraq and in Hit, and they're clearing in Ramadi.

Reinforcements for ISIL fighters aren't coming from Mosul, he said. “Any fighters that can get in, these are very small numbers,” he added. “We don't see convoys of big trucks where they're moving around. So it's getting harder for them to reinforce, [and] it's getting harder for them to resupply.”

Clearing Fallujah

In an update on operations, Garver began with the fight in Fallujah, where operations continue clearing the town on multiple axes entering the city.

“Brigades from three Iraqi army divisions, Counterterrorism Service units, federal police and tribal fighters from the Anbar province are pushing in toward the center of Fallujah proper,” he said. Northwest of Fallujah City, brigades from the 14th Iraqi Army Division have been clearing the area and in the southeast brigades from the 1st Iraqi Army Division have been clearing toward the city near the Euphrates River, the spokesman said.

Farther to the south, elements of the 17th and 8th Iraqi Army Divisions and Anbar tribal fighters have been back-clearing pockets of ISIL fighters from bypassed areas, and the 8th Iraqi Army Division has been clearing west of the city, Garver added.

“The Counterterrorism Service is on the southern edge of the city proper and has been clearing before entering the city,” the colonel said. “The federal police and popular mobilization forces are continuing [to isolate] the Fallujah area and have cleared some suburban neighborhoods around the city.”

ISIL has offered stiff resistance, Garver said, fighting with heavy machine guns and indirect fire from mortars and artillery.

“The coalition conducted 67 airstrikes in the last three weeks in Fallujah in support of the operation,” Garver said, “including 31 in the last week and seven in the last 48 hours.”

The coalition will continue to support the operation by sharing intelligence, and it has conducted hundreds of hours of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support for the Iraqi forces over Fallujah to help the Iraqis develop an intelligence picture inside the city, he said.

Shaping Operations for Mosul

Describing two significant operations near Mosul, Garver said peshmerga forces conducted a swift attack to the east of Mosul on May 29 to extend their forward line of troops and to control the Khazir River about 12 kilometers east of Qaraqosh.

Peshmerga forces liberated eight villages and extended their forward line of troops about 15 kilometers. The fighters encountered moderate resistance from ISIL, the spokesman said, but secured their tactical objectives.

Also near Mosul, Garver said, the coalition struck another Operation Tidal Wave II target about 9 kilometers west of Mosul to degrade ISIL's revenue from illicit oil and natural gas activities. Coalition aircraft struck a group of more than 100 ISIL trucks and dropped warning leaflets before the attack, he added.

“The attack destroyed the bulk of the tanker trucks, and we had no reported civilian casualties in the strike,” Garver said.

Fighting in Syria

In northern Syria, Garver said, operations continue against ISIL near the town of Manbij.

“Over the past several days the Syrian Democratic Forces -- led by the Syrian-Arab Coalition and composed of about 85 percent local Arabs fighting to liberate their homeland -- has … made significant progress in seizing territory from and further isolating [ISIL] around Manbij,” he said.

Manbij is strategically important to ISIL, whose fighters rely on its proximity to the Turkish border to smuggle in foreign fighters and supplies, and export terrorism to the West, Garver explained.

“The SDF launched the attack a week ago … from multiple points to the east of Manbij, the southernmost position being near the Tishrin Dam,” the colonel said. “The force of more than 3,000 troops advanced along multiple axes from east to west toward Manbij, [and] the SDF has made significant progress so far, including successfully executing a river crossing operation across the Euphrates River north of Tishrin.”

ISIL offered heavy resistance as the operation began and at points along the way, he said, adding that coalition ofrficials believe ISIL will fight hard to retain Manbij, which is key terrain on the line of communication out of Raqqa.

“The SDF continues to press the attack toward Manbij, though the cost has been high. They have suffered [about 12] killed and more than 100 wounded during the fighting, [including] the death of Abu Layla, leader of Shams al-Shamal, a multi-ethnic unified local liberation force and a suborganization of the Syrian-Arab Coalition,” Garver said.

Since the start of the operation, he added, the coalition has conducted 102 airstrikes in Manbij, 84 of them since the operation began last week, and support continues to provide intelligence and ISR support.

ISIL Capabilities Diminished

ISIL is still unable to mount large-scale attacks in Iraq and Syria, instead creating small-scale, localized attacks designed to terrorize and disrupt rather than retaking lost territory, Garver said, and is shifting its tactics to conduct more suicide attacks than military attacks.

“This does not mean the enemy is defeated yet,” the spokesman told reporters, noting that ISIL remains dangerous and still can attack both military forces and civilian targets. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, he added, officials expect ISIL to attempt more high-profile, headline-grabbing attacks “to sow terror and to distract from the fact that they keep losing militarily on the battlefield.”