WASHINGTON (June 29, 2016) —
Iraqi forces have begun working toward Mosul after their victory
in Fallujah this week against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,
and the Syrian Democratic Forces are tightening a cordon around Manbij
in an operation led by the Syrian Arab coalition, the Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman said Wednesday.
Speaking live via videoconference from a command post in the
Middle East, Army Col. Christopher Garver gave an update on the ISIL
fight after offering condolences on the U.S.-led coalition’s behalf
after deadly attacks yesterday on the Istanbul Ataturk International
Airport in Turkey’s capital city.
Also this morning, Defense Secretary Ash Carter called Turkish
Minister of Defense Fikri Isik to express his deep condolences following
Carter strongly condemned the attack as a cowardly assault on a
stalwart NATO ally and enduring partner in efforts to confront the
threat of terrorism, according to a statement by DoD Deputy Press
Secretary Gordon Trowbridge. The defense secretary also reaffirmed that
the department will work closely with Turkish allies to defeat
terrorists of any kind.
Victory in Fallujah
Beginning with Iraq, Garver said the world watched as Iraqi
fighters raised the Iraqi flag over Fallujah June 17, and Iraqi military
leaders announced the city’s full liberation June 26.
“Since that time we have seen rapid clearing operations within
the city as [Iraq] consolidates its gains and prepares for future
operations, which will include handing over the security of Fallujah to
the holding force” of local police and Sunni tribal fighters, the
The assault phase of the ground campaign began May 21, and
during that time the coalition conducted 106 strikes in support of Iraqi
operations, he said.
“We know there is interest in the physical state of Fallujah
after the battle,” Garver said, adding that press reports indicate that
the city is in better shape than Ramadi was last year after its
“If initial reports [are] accurate, we hope this will bode well
for getting the residents of Fallujah back into their homes as quickly
as possible. We do not have an estimated timeline from the Iraqi
government yet but all parties involved in the care of the displaced
citizens are working to develop that now,” he said.
In the Tigris River Valley, Iraqi forces are conducting shaping
operations to prepare for the eventual liberation of Mosul. On the
western access, Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service forces and 9th Iraqi
Army Division brigades continue to push the attack north out of Beiji,
Fighting on the western access has ranged been between light
and moderate, but Iraqi forces continue to make steady gains toward
Qayyarah. Over the past week, the coalition has conducted 34 strikes in
the Qayyarah region in support of these operations, the colonel added.
In Syria, in addition to progress made by Syrian Democratic
Forces and the Syrian Arab Coalition toward Manbij, SAC forces are
fighting to establish footholds on the southern and western edges of the
city, Garver said.
“They’ve seized the entrances to an intricate tunnel complex on
the southern edge, which will reduce [ISIL’s] ability to relocate
fighters inside the city,” he added, noting that SAC forces have seized
more than 10,000 documents from the outlying edges, including textbooks,
propaganda posters, cell phones, laptops, maps and digital storage
“Exploitation of this information is ongoing to better
understand [ISIL] networks and techniques, including the systems [used]
to manage the flow of foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq,” the colonel
To protect citizens inside the city, Garver said SAC leaders
have assumed a slower and more deliberate rate of advance to clear booby
traps and homemade bombs and to avoid civilian casualties, although
ISIL continues to establish fortified defenses in the city.
“We expect the fighting to continue to be intense and progress
slow but deliberate due to the strategic importance [ISIL] places on
this city for keeping lines of communication between Manbij, Raqqa and
outside Syria open,” he said.
In southeastern Syria, Garver said that partner opposition
forces running the Tanf Garrison launched an attack in the past 48 hours
to seize the town of Abu Kamal in the Euphrates River Valley.
“The announced purpose of this attack by the New Syrian Army,
also known as the … KAA, is to liberate Abu Kamal and cut [ISIL’s]
military supply lines in the Euphrates Valley between Syria and Iraq,”
he said. “Cutting these supply lines will impact the flow of foreign
fighters and supplies between the upper and lower Euphrates Valley.”
Garver said that as local fighters with coalition support have
worked to interdict lines of communication between Iraq and Syria in the
north near Sinjar Mountain on Highway 43 and in the south near Rutbah
on Highway 10, “we are now working to interdict the last major line of
communication between the two countries.”
Doing so, he added, will better isolate ISIL operations in the
two countries, limit high-speed routes to reinforcements, resupply and
foreign fighters flowing between the countries, and increase pressure
across the so-called caliphate.
Tidal Wave II
Operation Inherent Resolve continues to target ISIL illicit oil
and natural gas activities in an operation called Tidal Wave II, Garver
said, whose targets include oil sites, equipment and vehicles for
transporting oil and natural gas.
Since September 2014, the coalition has conducted about 300
strikes against oil-related facilities, infrastructure and equipment, he
said, and last week the coalition conducted eight strikes in support of
Tidal Wave II near Raqqa in Syria and Mosul and Qayyarah in Iraq.
Coalition airstrikes have attacked ISIL oil tankers, oil and
gas separation plants, wellheads and pumping infrastructure, he said,
and the self-proclaimed ISIL ministry of oil headquarters in Mosul,
affecting management of illicit oil operations.
“The Tidal Wave strikes affect ISIL’s ability to fund governance activities and terror operations,” Garver added.