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NEWS | June 27, 2016

U.S., UK to maintain close ties in ISIL fight

WASHINGTON (June 24, 2016) — Defense Secretary Ash Carter told his United Kingdom counterpart State Secretary for Defense Michael Fallon  that the two nations will always enjoy a special relationship reflected in close defense ties — a bedrock of U.S. security and foreign policy, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters here Friday.

“The secretary reaffirmed that those bonds endure after yesterday's vote by the United Kingdom to exit the European Union,” Cook told reporters.

Cook also updated reporters on counter-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant efforts in Syria and Iraq.

Cook added that Carter emphasized the United States' “unshakeable commitment to NATO, of which the United Kingdom is a vital member, and to the vision we share with our allies, the United Kingdom, and other European nations.”

Carter welcomed Fallon's commitment to continuing the United Kingdom's active and enduring role in global security issues, Cook said, and its work within NATO and efforts to accelerate the lasting defeat of ISIL, in particular.

“The two leaders committed to work together to strengthen international partnerships that have helped ensure security for the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and the world,” Cook said. “We will see that close work together continues in next month's NATO summit in Warsaw, and it's on display every day in the fight against ISIL.”

Arab-led Forces Push Into Manbij

Turning to the fight to defeat ISIL, Cook said despite continued enemy resistance in the Syrian city of Manbij, Arab-led forces have begun pushing into the city, which they’ve surrounded on all sides while conducting clearing operations of ISIL forces on the city’s outskirts.

Over the past 24 hours near Manbij, Cook said, eight coalition airstrikes against ISIL assets have struck seven of its tactical units, destroying six fighting positions and two vehicles. Since the ground operation to assault Manbij began four weeks ago, coalition forces have conducted 246 strikes in support of local ground forces, he added.

“Cutting off ISIL's access through Manbij means taking away [one of its] major foreign fighter hubs. It's also an important step in our coalition's push toward ultimately targeting ISIL's self-proclaimed capital in Raqqa,” Cook said.

More Than 70 Percent of Fallujah Cleared

And in Fallujah, Iraq, government forces have cleared more than 70 percent of the city, Cook said. And in five weeks since ground operations began to retake the city from ISIL control, he added, coalition forces have conducted 100 airstrikes in support of Iraqi ground forces.

“The loss of Fallujah will further deny [ISIL] access to a province critically important to its overall goals. It will also reduce their ability to threaten civilians in Baghdad,” Cook told reporters. “And, of course, all of these operations are being enabled by a global coalition of nations united in the fight against ISIL -- the U.K. [being] among the integral members of that coalition and a stalwart ally of the United States.”