In Syria, Operation Roundup is in its 36th day of targeting and destroying remnants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Army Col. Thomas Veale, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, told Pentagon reporters today via teleconference from Baghdad.
“The increased operational tempo under Operation Roundup includes 225 coalition partner strikes in May,” the spokesman said. “That's a 304 percent increase over March and a 123 percent increase over April strikes. We and our partners have pounded ISIS remnants from the ground and air in relentless pursuit of their leaders and fighters.”
Sagging ISIS Morale
ISIS’ morale is low and its leaders are scurrying for their lives, he said, noting that thanks to increased coalition and partner pressure, quite a bit of ISIS traffic is now flowing west toward Syrian regime-held territory.
Veale also announced the removal of a key ISIS operative from the battlefield in Syria. Amed al-Hamdouni, a courier for ISIS senior leadership, was killed during a coalition operation May 17 near Dashisha, Syria, he said.
Al-Hamdouni carried messages among high-level ISIS leaders throughout Syria and Iraq. His death hurts ISIS leadership's ability to communicate securely and increases their risk of public exposure or further isolation, Veale said.
Turning to Iraq, Iraqi security force partners continue to provide excellent internal security and border security to protect Iraq's sovereign soil and citizens, Veale said.
Iraq’s citizens are increasingly coming home, and to date, more than 3.7 million Iraqis have returned, he said.
The spokesman emphasized Iraqi security forces’ key role in securing the Iraqi side of the border with Syria in Operation Roundup. “Iraqi border guard forces and the Iraqi army have covered the western border as our partners' ground defenses attack ISIS remnants in Syria,” he said.
Operation Reliable Partnership
The coalition also continues support to Iraq through Operation Reliable Partnership, which will enhance Iraqi forces' ability to train and equip themselves, Veale said, adding, “Reliable Partnership will build resilience and security and sustainment capabilities, as well as the growing air enterprise, security policy and operations, intelligence and counterterrorism.”
The United States views Operation Reliable Partnership as an investment in Iraq's future security and, as the successful defeat-ISIS operations have shown, is also an investment in global security, Veale said.
“We look forward to continuing the successes of this partnership,” he added.
“Our mission remains unchanged: to defeat ISIS in designated parts of Iraq and Syria, and to help set conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability,” the spokesman said.
“We, the military arm of the global coalition, work by, with and through our partners to achieve and help sustain security that enables stabilization activities,” he said. “Military action will only take us so far by providing a safer environment in which to work. We now encourage the international community to take advantage of the space, time and opportunities military successes have bought.”
Veale said the coalition and its partners have dealt severe blows to ISIS. However, he added, the enemy is adaptable and determined to rise again.
“There is no doubt momentum is on our side, but we're facing a determined enemy and there is much work to do,” the spokesman said. “We're grateful for the support of the global coalition of 71 nations and four international organizations, and we are ever mindful of the sacrifices our predecessors and our partners have made.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)