The coalition continues to help forces in both Iraq and Syria establish security and stability in areas that have known nothing but oppression since the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria reared its head five years ago, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve said today.
Speaking to Pentagon reporters from Baghdad, Army Col. Sean Ryan noted that Iraqi forces are working together across the country to rid the nation of the last remnants of the terrorist group.
“The various security elements -- to include the [Iraqi forces], the peshmerga, counterterrorism services and the federal police -- are all working together to continue securing their country,” he said.
In Ninevah province, Iraqi forces continue to find and disarm improvised explosive devices and continue to root out ISIS holdouts. In the mountains of Kirkuk, the Iraqi federal police and the Kurdish peshmerga work together to secure remote villages.
Out west, in Anbar province, border security forces continue to prevent ISIS fighters from streaming into the country, the colonel said.
“For its part, the coalition is … enabling the [Iraqi] efforts to secure Iraq by advising strategic leaders, training thousands of Iraqi service members and divesting equipment they need to effectively secure their country,” he said.
Coalition members also continue to train Iraqi forces. Since the effort started in 2015, coalition forces have trained more than 175,000 Iraqis in basic soldier skills and specialized fields such as intelligence, law enforcement, medical support and aviation.
In Syria, the picture is more complex and dangerous. Ground operations for Phase 3 of Operation Roundup have begun, and Syrian partner forces continue clearance of the Middle Euphrates River Valley, Ryan said. “Hajin and the surrounding villages are the last remaining territory acquired by ISIS in the coalition's area of responsibility, and the victory by the Syrian Democratic Forces there will mean that ISIS no longer holds territory,” he added.
ISIS fighters are trying desperately to hang onto the territory, and hard fighting lies ahead, the colonel told reporters. “Despite this, we are confident that the SDF will prevail,” he said.
In Tanf earlier this month, Marines conducted training to reinforce partner forces, he said. “The coalition has supported the SDF through air support, as well as training and equipment,” Ryan said. “Additionally, in liberated areas, the coalition trained internal security forces to maintain the peace and security in liberated cities, provide basic law enforcement support, as well as specialized services such as counter-[improvised explosive devices] and engineering.”
Ryan noted changes in Iraq as Army Lt. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera assumed command of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve from Army Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II.
Ryan said the military stabilization efforts are going well, but are not enough. “Security creates the space for rebuilding,” he explained. “Residents only gain hope for the future when their children can go to school free from harm, women go buy basic necessities in local shops, and when they can go to their jobs that allow them to support their families. Ultimately, the military cannot fight its way to stability.”
The cost of reconstruction is high, with estimates of rebuilding Mosul -- Iraq’s second-largest city -- pegged at $100 billion. “We call on all nations to help those who have sacrificed tremendously fighting this global threat,” Ryan said.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDODNews)