In its 53rd day of coalition operations to liberate Raqqa, Syria, from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria control, the Syrian Democratic Forces have about 45 percent of the city under its control, Army Col. Ryan Dillon, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, told Pentagon reporters today.
Speaking from Baghdad via teleconference, the colonel said the SDF have cleared about 9 square miles of terrain this past week as they fought against stiff, sporadic resistance from ISIS entrenched in Raqqa.
“On the western axis, the SDF took control of a series of multistory buildings that allowed them to provide over watch and push further into the city's center,” Dillon said. “On the eastern axis, the SDF made incremental gains south of the main road that runs east to west in the city.”
The distance between the east and west axes is less than a half-mile, he noted, and added once the two link up, the SDF will have full control of southern Raqqa. And south of the Euphrates River, the SDF continue to isolate Raqqa and reinforce their positions.
Iraqis Continue Clearing Mosul
Turning to Iraq, Dillon said the Iraqi security forces control all parts of Mosul and continue clearance operations to look for ISIS fighters in hiding, and identify explosive devices that could threaten friendly forces or civilians.
Iraqi army, emergency response division, counterterrorism service and federal police forces maintain their sectors of Mosul until the home forces take over and secure the area, he said.
“There have been no strikes by the coalition in Mosul for nearly two weeks now,” Dillon said. “There have only been a handful of direct-fire engagements by the ISF in Mosul over the last week.”
And, for the first time since operations to liberate Mosul began in October 2016, July 25 marked the first day there were no ISF casualties in Mosul.
“These are all indicators to the improving security situation there,” the colonel said.
Law of Armed Conflict Violations Reports
Dillon also discussed recent reports of alleged Law of Armed Conflict violations during defeat-ISIS operations.
Authenticity of the reports has not been verified, he said, adding that any violation should be investigated transparently.
Coalition Disrupts ISIS Propaganda
Meanwhile, the combined joint task force and the coalition are making significant strides in countering ISIS’s propaganda operations, Dillon said.
“We have said several times that we will not allow ISIS sanctuary,” he said. “When known, we will degrade ISIS's ability to conduct battlefield operations; to inspire, plan, finance and direct terror attacks; and recruit and move terrorist fighters.”
The spokesman said the coalition has in recent months targeted and killed numerous senior ISIS propagandists and facilitators in Iraq and Syria.
“The removal of these key ISIS leaders disrupts ISIS's propaganda production, distribution and the ability to fund their activities,” Dillon said.
The defeat ISIS coalition “has collectively blunted the edge of terrorist propaganda. ISIS's online supporters are dwindling, with counter-ISIS content outnumbering pro-ISIS content across the world,” he said.
The colonel reported a 92-percent decrease in global shares of ISIS video content on Twitter during May. In April, ISIS propaganda production dropped to its lowest point in more than six months, a 75-percent reduction in ISIS's monthly output in 2016.
The global coalition launched a campaign -- #takedaeshdown -- to inform social media users of how to report ISIS extremist content to platform owners and add pressure on them to remove the content, he added.
“ISIS is losing on every front -- on the battlefield, in recruiting, in social media, and generating money,” Dillon said. “And they will continue to lose with the pressure put on by our partners in Iraq and Syria.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDOD)