The U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria continues to support Syrian Democratic Forces as they pressure ISIS by advancing toward the confluence of the Kabul and Euphrates River valleys, Army Col. Ryan S. Dillon, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters today.
More than 1,500 square miles of formerly ISIS-held territory has been liberated since the beginning of operations in September, Dillon said from Baghdad during a teleconference with reporters in the Pentagon.
“The coalition continues supporting our Syrian partners through surveillance and combat advice, as well as more than 40 precision strikes in the past week targeting ISIS fighters, weapons, logistics and command nodes,” Dillon said.
He added, “We will continue to deprive ISIS remnants of their resources in safe havens and continue our defeat-ISIS mission so long as they pose a threat.”
The fielding and training of police and security forces such as the Raqqa Internal Security Force “will grow in importance as ISIS’ conventional force continues to face defeat and reverts to its terrorist roots,” Dillon said.
“The coalition will continue to support our partners’ needs for effective forces tailored to meet the needs of the Syrian and Iraqi people,” he added.
As war debris is carefully cleared, residents can begin to return home, the spokesman said. This week with coalition-enabled efforts, nearly 8,000 civilians were returned to their homes in Meshlib, Syria, after the SDF declared the area clear, he added.
Additionally, the inclusive and locally governed Raqqa Civil Council has led the way in public health, safety, economic and educational efforts in the area, with ongoing support from the coalition, Dillon said.
“Many of these stabilization efforts in Syria are coordinated through the U.S. State Department’s Syrian Transition Assistance and Response Team -- or START -- in support of these locally led civil councils,” he said.
Moving to Iraq, Iraqi security forces continue in their clearance of western Anbar province, targeting ISIS in their final remaining holdouts in that nation, Dillon noted.
In the past week, the ISF completed back-clearance operations in Qaim, eliminating ISIS weapons caches including improvised explosive devices and mortars, he said.
“As the ISF secure and hold these recently cleared areas, they also continue their advance against ISIS in the city of Rawah,” Dillon said. “As with all these operations, planned and executed by the capable ISF, the coalition continues to provide intelligence, advice and support.”
The coalition conducted six strikes against ISIS in Rawah in the past week, targeting tactical units and fighting positions, he added.
“As with Syria, areas liberated of ISIS [in Iraq] still require attention to ensure lasting security, and to set conditions for long-term stabilization,” Dillon said. “Therefore, we continue supporting development of our ISF partner forces. At the same time, the global coalition is working with the government of Iraq to support various economic and education initiatives.”
Across Iraq, the coalition sees progress and stabilization, the spokesman said.
“To consolidate and secure these gains, we must remain committed to ensuring long-term security which will require the united efforts of our Iraqi security forces partners and the global coalition,” Dillon said.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)