WASHINGTON, Dec. 28, 2017 —
2017 was a momentous year for the U.S.-led coalition's fight against ISIS, as the Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve broke the group's three-year stranglehold on Mosul, Iraq, and also liberated the group's self-proclaimed capital in Raqqa, Syria.
"[ISIS] has no capital and no physical caliphate," said Army Maj. Gen. James B. Jarrard, commander of Special Operations Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve. "[ISIS] is running out of places to hide. [ISIS] terrorists are running away from our partners in the coalition."
In 2014, ISIS swept across Syria and Iraq and declared the territory as the heart of it new caliphate, with a capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa.
Iraqi security forces were at first overmatched and were backed up to Baghdad and Kurdistan. Iraq asked for help, and a coalition led by the United States formed against ISIS. Coalition forces helped train and equip Iraqi security forces, and they provided the air support needed to keep ISIS from making any further gains.
"To date, more than 110,000 Iraqi security forces have been trained and equipped by the coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq," said Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force -- Operation Inherent Resolve.
Those forces were ready to take the offensive against ISIS in late 2015. They liberated Tikrit, Ramadi, Fallujah, Qayyarah, Sharkot, and countless smaller villages. But the ISIS stronghold of Mosul presented a formidable challenge. "When the 18th Airborne Corps arrived last August, the liberation of Mosul was just an idea and colored lines on a map," Townsend said. "The nine-month-long liberation battle for Mosul was not an easy task. It was a brutal urban fight."
During a three-year occupation of Mosul, Iraq, ISIS terrorized tens of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children, while also destroying many of the city's religious and cultural treasures, including the al-Nuri Mosque.
Iraqi security forces took on ISIS in the city that the terrorists considered the jewel in their crown in Iraq. Mosul tested the Iraqis and they passed with flying colors, Townsend said.
"The Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga set the example for all of Iraq," he said. "They proved how resilient and powerful they can be. They put their differences aside and worked together toward a common goal."
The Iraqis could not have done this without coalition support, and the coalition of more than 60 nations "was there every step of the way" to provide that support, Townsend said. "But make no mistake about it -- this is an Iraqi plan," he added. "This is Iraqis liberating Iraqis."
The U.S.-led coalition remains committed to helping the Iraqis secure further victories against ISIS and establish lasting peace. "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," said Army Col. Ryan S. Dillon, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force -- Operation Inherent Resolve.
The Syrian Democratic Forces' Oct. 20 liberation of Raqqa, Syria, exposed the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria's lies and cowardice and the evil of its ideology, said Jarrard.
"This multireligious and multiethnic alliance of Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Yezidis, Armenians and Turkmen -- which also includes female fighters and commanders -- overpowered, entrenched the enemy and demonstrated courage and tenacity in the face of significant losses," he said.
Precision coalition air support and ground artillery enabled the SDF's advance and minimized civilian casualties in the process, Jarrard emphasized.
"The coalition will continue to support our partners' needs for effective forces tailored to meet the needs of the Syrian and Iraqi people," Dillon said.
As war debris is carefully cleared, residents can begin to return home, he 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.
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.
And, "together, the coalition will continue [its] support to the SDF as they liberate the remainder of areas along the Euphrates River to the border with Iraq," Jarrard said.
(Editor's Note: This article is part of a series reflecting on the top Army events of 2017. This article is a compilation of four different articles, whose links are below: "Sustaining the victory in Mosul," by Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith, "US, partner forces defeating ISIS evil in Iraq, Syria, Army commander says," by Jim Garamone, "US-led coalition's support to continue after Raqqa's liberation, Army major general says," by Terri Moon Cronk, and "Campaign to defeat ISIS deprives enemy of safe havens, OIR Army spokesman says," by Terri Moon Cronk.)