Coalition Progresses in Mosul, Raqqa to Defeat ISIS, Spokesman Says
The fight to defeat Islamic State of Iraq and Syria extremists is progressing in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria, Army Col. Ryan S. Dillon, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, told Pentagon reporters today.
Providing an update by teleconference from Baghdad, Dillon told reporters that Iraqi security forces in Mosul have continued to push forward this week on the west and northwest portions of the forward line of troops, keeping pressure on ISIS.
"As expected, the tight confines of the remaining neighborhoods, the well-defended urban canyons, have proven to be very difficult to liberate," he said.
And the Iraqi security forces are continuing to methodically clear ISIS "street-by-street, house-by-house and room-by-room," Dillon said, and remain focused on civilian safety as they clear ISIS-held areas, moving civilians out of danger as much as possible.
But ISIS has reverted to brutalizing and murdering civilians, Dillon said.
He noted that the United Nations reported June 6 that 163 bodies of murdered Iraqi men, women and children lay on the streets of the Sheer neighborhood in western Mosul after being shot and killed by ISIS snipers when they desperately tried to flee to safety.
Also this week in western Iraq, Iraqi popular mobilization forces recaptured Baaj and retook nearly 1,000 square kilometers – 386 square miles – liberating terrain and villages all the way to the Iraq-Syria border, Dillon said.
Raqqa Offensive Begins
Meanwhile, the U.S. partner force in Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces, began its offensive June 6 to defeat ISIS in Raqqa, the terrorist organization’s de facto capital for its self-proclaimed caliphate, the spokesman said.
Raqqa has served as an important ISIS hub to recruit, inspire, finance and plan external attacks, he added.
"This week’s attacks in London, Paris and Melbourne are further evidence of the danger this evil terrorist group poses, not only to their region, but to all nations," Dillon emphasized.
The liberation of Raqqa, as with a string of other ISIS strongholds, such as Dabiq, Manbij and Tabqa, will further degrade ISIS' ability to export terrorists, plot external attacks, recruit members and subjugate populations, he said.
The SDF has moved to isolate Raqqa with forces to the west, north, and east, Dillon added.
"To the south is the Euphrates River, and with bridges that cannot be used to cross, ISIS is limited to using watercraft to move into or out of Raqqa," he said. "Understanding this, the coalition conducted several strikes this week, destroying 20 boats attempting to shuttle ISIS fighters across the river."
The liberation of Raqqa will deal the enemy a punishing blow and further degrade ISIS’ ability to move throughout the region and further spread terror and kill innocent civilians, Dillon said.
Strikes in Syria
This morning in southern Syria, U.S. airstrikes hit two technical vehicles and pickup trucks with weapons that were assessed to pose a threat to coalition partner forces based at Al Tanf Garrison, the spokesman said.
"Later this morning, after that first incident, the United States also shot down a suspected pro-regime drone that fired on coalition forces conducting patrols outside of the deconfliction zone to the east," he said.
"There are no coalition casualties, and today was the third set of kinetic strikes the United States has conducted in response to threats posed to the coalition forces and partners operating out of Al Tanf," Dillon noted.
The first kinetic strike was May 18, and the second was June 6, he added, in addition to today’s air-to-ground and air-to-air engagements.
"We're watching the situation very closely," Dillon said. "The coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime or pro-regime forces; however, we remain ready to defend ourselves against any threat."
The coalition has been very clear through the deconfliction line, through leaflets, messages and actions, to warn pro-regime forces not to advance toward or otherwise threaten coalition forces at Al Tanf, the spokesman said.
"The coalition calls on all parties in southern Syria to focus their efforts on the defeat of ISIS, which is our common enemy and the greatest threat to the region and the rest of the world," Dillon said.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)