Raqqa Close to Liberation as ISIS ‘Caliphate’ Crumbles
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is on the run around the globe, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said today at news briefing.
White, speaking to the Pentagon press corps with Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Frank McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said that the so-called caliphate in the Middle East is on its last legs and that indigenous troops aided by coalition capabilities are taking the battle to the terror group worldwide.
Raqqa, the so-called capital of the caliphate, is almost totally cleared of the terror group, she said. The Syrian Democratic Forces have taken the battle to ISIS and just a few last remaining holdouts must be cleared out. News reports from the battle say that ISIS fighters -- once the scourge of the region -- are surrendering to SDF personnel.
In Iraq, life is returning to normal in Mosul -- captured by ISIS in 2014 and cleared by Iraqi forces earlier this year. Iraqi forces have also liberated Hawija and are taking the battle to the remaining ISIS fighters in the Euphrates River Valley.
But ISIS has worldwide ambitions, and success in one region -- such as the Middle East -- means ISIS adherents scurry to other areas of the globe. “In the Philippines, the purported ISIS emir of Southeast Asia and the Philippines was killed along with several other militants in a firefight with the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” White said.
She congratulated the Philippine forces for their success and vowed the United States and the coalition to defeat ISIS will continue to provide aid to Philippine forces as they battle the terrorists on the island of Mindanao. “We will continue to cooperate with our Philippine partners providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, as well as advice and training.”
Earlier this week, a U.S. strike in Yemen against ISIS decimated many of its senior leaders, she said.
“These events show that our fight against ISIS is global and that other groups that align with them or adopt their brand will face the same bad end,” she said. “ISIS is on the run; it is losing credibility, resources and influence everywhere.”
The struggle against global terrorism does not end with ISIS, White said. American forces continue to fight against al-Qaida in Afghanistan, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan and al-Shabab in Somalia.
It also continues in West Africa. In Niger, four American soldiers were killed and two wounded while accompanying a Nigerien patrol. “These service members were providing advice and assistance to Nigerian security forces’ counterterrorism operations when they came under fire from hostile fighters,” she said.
DoD is investigating the incident, defense officials said.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDODNews)