SOUTHWEST ASIA – Today, the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve reflects on 2018 and looks forward to 2019.
Within one year, the Coalition has grown from 70 nations and four partner organizations to 74 nations and five partner organizations in the campaign to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS. The Coalition welcomed the Philippines in February, Republic of Guinea and the Community of Sahel-Sahran States in June, Kenya in August, and Fiji in September.
Since the establishment of CJTF-OIR in 2014, the Coalition reclaimed more than 99 percent of ISIS’s previously held ground of more than 100,000 square kilometers, roughly equivalent in size to Britain. CJTF-OIR and partner forces liberated key cities in Iraq and Syria, including, Hajin, Mosul, Hawijah, al-Qa’im, Tal Afar, Raqqah, and Tabqah. Each town the Coalition liberated has continued its path toward normalcy free of ISIS influence.
In 2018 the Coalition and partner forces have territorially constrained ISIS and severely degraded their capabilities, allowing more than 4 million internally displaced persons to return to their area of origin free from ISIS rule. During the past year, Coalition forces and partner forces have killed thousands of ISIS fighters, and destroyed their media sites, command and control centers, weapons caches and other facilities. This degraded ISIS’s capabilities and access to funding, recruiting, arms and training.
Between January and March 2018, a Coalition team worked with Syrian partners to erect a steel bridge near the village of Hawi al-Hawa of the Raqqah province. This effort allowed the Raqqah Internal Security Force to provide security to the people of Raqqah and facilitated greater humanitarian assistance and relief efforts there. The Coalition also announced, following the liberation of Mosul, that it would shift its focus in Iraq from enabling combat operations to sustaining military gains against ISIS. During this period, successful operations by the Coalition and its partners reclaimed approximately 98 percent of the territory ISIS once held in Iraq and Syria. Closing out the month of March, the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command authority transferred from the U.S. Army’s 1st Armored Division to the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division.
Between April and June 2018, the Coalition partner force, the Maghaweir al-Thowra, destroyed a large cache of ISIS narcotics. The drugs were seized during counter-ISIS operations within the 55km de-confliction zone near At Tanf, Syria. The drugs were estimated to have a black market value of $1.4 million. Also, the Coalition killed four ISIS members affiliated with the group’s Oil and Gas Network in the MERV, Syria. Abu Khattab al-Iraqi, the networks leader, managed revenue generation through the illicit sale of oil and gas. The other three men killed, Abu Yusuf al-Hashimi, Abu Hajir Milhim, and Abu Hiba al-Maghrebi, facilitated these operations. Furthermore, the Coalition congratulated the people of Iraq and the ISF on the successful completion of the first Parliamentary election since Iraq declared the full liberation of its population from ISIS. Closing out the month of June, the Coalition enabled the Syrian Democratic Forces ground operations to begin phase two of Operation Roundup to defeat ISIS in northeastern Syria. This was bolstered by coordinated Coalition cross-border air and artillery strikes, and Iraqi partner strikes by the Iraqi Air Force and Iraqi Army artillery positioned near the border.
Furthermore between July and September 2018, the Coalition and partner forces continued support efforts for Operation Roundup from Fire Base Um Jorais, a temporary artillery position, to aid in the acceleration of the defeat ISIS mission. The Coalition made further military gains when it enabled SDF to begin phase three of Operation Roundup. Phase three was also supported by Coalition cross-border air and artillery strikes, with the intent to clear ISIS from northeastern Syria, along the Middle Euphrates River Valley toward the Syria-Iraq border. Closing out September, the CJTF-OIR mission shifted commanding generals, from Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, III Corps Commanding General, to Lt. Gen. Paul LaCamera, XVIII Airborne Corps Commanding General.
Moreover, between October and December 2018, Coalition partner, the Maghaweir al-Thowra, provided security to ensure the safe delivery of thousands of tons of U.S. humanitarian aid to the Rukban internally displaced persons camp near At Tanf, Syria. Additionally, during this time period, the CJTF-OIR commemorated the centennial anniversary of the end of World War I with a ceremony in Baghdad, Iraq. Also, the ISF eliminated an ISIS fighter and senior leader known as “Katkut,” during an operation in the Salah ad Din province, Iraq. Katkut previously led an ISIS mortar detachment in which his attacks resulted in the deaths and injuries of Iraqi civilians and security forces. Katkut’s removal disrupted ISIS’s leadership chain and reduced ISIS’s ability to conduct terrorist attacks, both within the region and abroad. Additionally, the ISF conducted an airstrike against two ISIS location in As Susah, Syria. Their airstrike resulted in the destruction of two buildings used by senior ISIS leaders as meeting places. The destruction of these building severely degraded ISIS’s ability to exert command and control over the remaining fighters in and around As Susah.
“While we look forward to 2019, let us reflect on this current generation of warriors and remember those service members and partner forces who made the ultimate sacrifices in the fight against ISIS. We are indebted to those brave men, women, and their families who endure the unbearable weight of loss of their loved ones on their shoulders,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Albertson, command sergeant major of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. “You are not forgotten, and we thank you more than we could ever express in words.”
CJTF-OIR remembers those we lost in 2018; U.S. Army Spc. Javion Sullivan, British Army Capt. Dean Sprouting, U.S. Army Sgt. Christina Schoenecker, U.S. Army Capt. Christopher Zanetis, U.S. Air Force Capt. Andy O’Keeffe, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs, U.S Air Force Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso, U.S. Air Force Capt. Mark Weber, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. William Posch, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Carl Enis, French Army Caporal Bogusz Pochylski, U.S. Army Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar, British Army Sgt. Matt Tonroe, U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor Galvin.
CJTF-OIR also remembers those we’ve lost since the missions inception; U.S Air Force Capt. William Dubois, Canadian Army Sgt. Andrew J. Doiron, U.S. Army Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, U.S. Marines Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin, U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathaniel H. McDavitt, U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Charles H. Keating, Spanish Army Pvt. Aaron L. Vidal, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jeffrey D. Cooper, U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason C. Finan, U.S. Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott C. Dayton, British Army Lance Cpl. Scott Hetherington, U.S. Army Spc. Isiah L. Booker, U.S. Army Pfc. Brian P. Odiome, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Alexandria M. Morrow, U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Austin L. Bieren, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Weston C. Lee, U.S. Army Spc. Etienne J. Murphy, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Board, U.S. Army Sgt. Roshain E. Brooks, U.S. Army Sgt. Allen L. Stigler, French Army Adjudant-Chef Stéphane Grenier, U.S. Army Spc. Alexander Missildine, U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Lee Smith, U.S. Army Cpl. Todd L. McGurn, and U.S. Army Spc. Avadon A. Chaves.
Moving onward in the mission, the Coalition will be involved through the continued tactical level training of the ISF. The Coalition will build on the training which has already been delivered to more than 173,000 Iraqis. In 2019, the NATO mission in Iraq will take the lead in the ‘train the trainer’ mission to teach Iraqi military instructors to impart key skills such as countering improvised explosive devices, civil-military planning, armored vehicle maintenance, and military medicine to their trainees. NMI will train the ISF in multiple capacities and build upon their professional military academies, amongst other critical military schools.
CJTF-OIR, representing 74 nations and five international organizations, remains committed to the lasting defeat of ISIS. CJTF-OIR works by, with, and through partner forces to defeat ISIS in designated areas of Iraq and Syria, and set conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability.