June 28, 2016 —
WASHINGTON,(June 27, 2016) —
Defense Secretary Ash Carter today congratulated Prime Minister
Haider al-Abadi and the Iraqi people for freeing the city of Fallujah
from the grip of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The operation in Fallujah was a significant challenge for the
Iraqi security forces and for the multinational coalition, and it won’t
be the last, the secretary said in a statement.
“The United States military and our coalition partners are
proud to have supported the Iraqi security forces under the prime
minister's command in this important operation,” Carter said, calling
the operation “another milestone in our joint efforts to accelerate
ISIL's defeat and to continue supporting our Iraqi partners moving
Hard fighting is ahead, the secretary added, as is the vital
task of caring for the residents of Fallujah displaced by ISIL's
violence and beginning to rebuild the city so they can safely return.
Carter said it’s also essential to complete the investigations
launched by the Iraqi government to address alleged abuses of civilians.
"Despite the hard work still to do," he added, "the clearing of
Fallujah will make the people of Iraq safer and bring us all one step
closer to dealing ISIL a lasting defeat."
Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters here
today that the coalition continues to provide support through strikes,
intelligence, advice and assistance to Iraqi government fighters
operating in Fallujah and will continue to do so as the Iraqi forces
switch from taking the city to beginning clearing operations.
“The fighting to get into Fallujah was fierce,” Davis told
Pentagon reporters, “particularly as they broke through some of the
defensive belts on the southern side and the Iraqi security forces have
worked their way through the city and … rapidly took control of it.”
Thwarting ISIL’s Goals
Since the ground operation began May 21, coalition forces have
conducted more than 100 airstrikes in support of local ground forces
under the command of the government of Iraq, Davis said. “Those strikes
destroyed key ISIL targets, including tactical units, fighting
positions, heavy and light machine guns [and] rocket-propelled grenade
systems, and they also denied access to key terrain for ISIL,” he added.
After Iraqi security forces victories in Rutba, Hit and Ramadi
this year, Fallujah was the last major stronghold for ISIL in Anbar
province, Davis said. “With its large population centers, infrastructure
and key road networks, the loss of Fallujah will further deny ISIL
access to a province that's critically important to its overall goals,”
he told reporters. “It also significantly helps the security situation
in Baghdad, as Fallujah was the closest ISIL-held territory to Baghdad.”
Further north, in the Euphrates River Valley between Hit and
Haditha, Davis said, Iraqi forces continue clearing villages along the
north side of the river and have opened critical roads that connect the
region to Baghdad. As Iraqi forces clear those areas, he added, local
forces are serving as hold forces to secure and safeguard the area.
Fighting to Liberate Manbij
ISIL has had no strategic victories for more than a year and
has lost significant territory over and over again, Davis noted, listing
Fallujah, Ramadi, Rutba, Hit, Synjar and Beiji in Iraq, and Hawl,
Shadaddi and the Tishrin Dam in Syria. Though possession of the Syrian city of Manbij is still a hotly contested battle, Davis said, ISIL will soon lose that city as well.
Meanwhile, the U.S.-led coalition is “supporting the Iraqi
security forces as they move north from Beiji toward Kayara,” which is
on the road to Mosul up the Tigris River, Davis said, specifically on
the west side of the Euphrates to Kayara west, where there’s a large
“Kayara is the key pathway to be able to ultimately reach
Mosul, … so they've got to get up that river valley, and they're doing
it quickly. We've seen significant progress just in the last few days,”