WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2017 —
Coalition and partnered forces in Iraq and Syria are making progress against an increasingly desperate, fanatical enemy, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve said today.
The coalition continues to conduct strikes in both Iraq and Syria, Army Col. Ryan Dillon told reporters at the Pentagon in a teleconference from Baghdad.
Syrian Democratic Forces have cleared about 55 percent of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, he said.
In Iraq, the Iraqi federal police continue to conduct security operations in Mosul, Dillon said, noting the coalition maintains support to the Iraqi security forces as they reset and prepare for follow-on operations in Ninevah province.
Tribute to 'Courageous Paratroopers'
Dillion paid tribute to two soldiers who died Aug. 13 while engaging in combat operations in Iraq.
"Sgt. Allen Stigler, 22, of Arlington, Texas, and Sgt. Roshain Brooks, 30, of Brooklyn, New York, artillerymen with the 82nd Airborne Division, were killed while conducting a counterfire mission against an ISIS mortar site when an explosion occurred," he said.
There is no indication the deaths were a result of enemy contact, he said, adding that an investigation is underway.
"The Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve extends its most sincere condolences to the family, friends and teammates of these courageous paratroopers," he said. The soldiers were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
ISIS Desperate, Fanatical, Using Drugs to Maintain Fervor
The coalition continues to support Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against ISIS in Syria, conducting more than 200 strikes this week alone, destroying more than 180 ISIS fighting positions, car bombs and other various improvised explosive devices, Dillon said.
The terrorists, he said, have emplaced thousands of "fiendishly clever explosives" and dug extensive tunnels throughout Raqqa. The fighting is tough, he said, as "desperate and fanatical terrorists cling to territory with no escape."
ISIS terrorists, he said, are using the tunnels and improvised explosive devices to attack advancing SDF fighters as well as noncombatants trying to flee their homes.
"The few ISIS terrorists the SDF managed to capture alive, and the even fewer who have surrendered, show vividly their desperation," he said. "They are malnourished, emaciated, and many of them [are] pocked with needle tracks from what is assessed as amphetamines they use to maintain their murderous fervor."
The internal security forces in Syria are strengthening, the colonel said. Those joining the fight against ISIS include more than 200 female volunteers who graduated from a training course this week, Dillon pointed out.
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)