Iraqi security forces continue to pursue Islamic State of Iraq and Syria remnants in their country, destroying tunnels, weapons caches and explosives stockpiles, and arresting a number of suspected ISIS fighters, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve's deputy commander for strategy and support told Pentagon reporters this morning.
In addition to clearing villages in the mountainous region of Kirkuk, the Iraqi federal police and the Kirkuk special forces continue to secure the Kirkuk-Hawija highway, destroying several safe houses and improvised explosive devices, while also detaining suspected terrorists, said British army Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney, speaking via teleconference from Baghdad.
“Additionally, following the successful joint operations between the federal police and Peshmerga forces last week, units participated in ongoing discussions to determine future opportunities for coordination,” Gedney said.
Enabling Iraq’s Security Operations
Across Iraq, the U.S.-led coalition continues to help build Iraqi security forces' capability to enable their increasingly independent security operations, he said. The coalition also supports the civilian-led stabilization efforts that are critical for the lasting defeat of the enemy, the deputy commander noted.
“In Syria, the second phase of Operation Roundup is now complete,” Gedney said. “The Syrian Democratic Forces have declared the northern Jazira region cleared, although back-clearance operations to ensure Dashisha is cleared of remnant IEDs are ongoing.”
An internal security force also was established in Dashisha to ensure its long-term security, he added.
Also, planning is ongoing for operations to clear the last remaining pocket of ISIS-held territory east of the Euphrates River in Hajin in the vicinity of Abu Kamal, Gedney said.
“This final stage of Operation Roundup is likely to be a challenging fight, as it is a densely populated area,” he added.
The SDF have enabled some civilian convoys to leave the area, but there are indications that ISIS is stopping civilians from departing and holding them as human shields, he said.
ISF, SDF Partnership
Leaders from the ISF and the SDF are discussing opportunities to enhance partnerships ahead of the final clearance of the middle Euphrates River valley, particularly for border security operations and cross-border fire support, which comprised key SDF successes in Dashisha, Gedney said.
While military operations to defeat ISIS and clearing terrorist remnants are ongoing, so are stabilization efforts in liberated areas, he said.
In Iraq, work is underway to improve delivery of basic services to all Iraqis through the restoration of the country's infrastructure. In Mosul and Ramadi, for example, 13 electric substations have been rehabilitated, in addition to the nearly 28 miles of power transmission line that were improved in Snuny near Sinjar, Gedney said.
Life Improving in Syrian Cities
In Syria, life is improving in cities such as Tabqa, Manbij and Raqqa, and basic services are also being restored to the recently liberated Dashisha, the general said. The Shadadi Civil Council, he said, distributed more than 1,000 food baskets and hygiene kits to the local population.
“While we highlight our partners' ongoing efforts to improve the lives of their fellow countrymen, we still emphasize that more needs to be done by the international community to aid these efforts,” Gedney said.
“Military operations will only get us so far,” he said. “Our partners in Iraq and Syria are doing the best they can, but the scope of the problem goes far beyond the limited resources and capabilities that are available to them, particularly in northeast Syria.”
It is imperative for the international community to get involved in improving the lives of all Iraqis and Syrians, “and to make sure that the conditions that gave rise to ISIS are eliminated,” Gedney said.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)