By DoD News
By Terri Moon Cronk
As Syrian Arab forces entered western Manbij, Syria, and pushed toward the heart of the city to dismantle the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s hold there, Syrian Democratic Forces unveiled key ISIL intelligence, a U.S. Central Command spokesman said.
In an operational update briefing with Pentagon reporters by teleconference from Centcom headquarters in Tampa, Florida, Air Force Col. Pat Ryder said the SDF recovered more than 10,000 ISIL documents and 4.5 terabytes of data during its offensive to retake Manbij from the ISIL terrorists’ control. The information ultimately could prove useful in this fight and future counter-ISIL operations, he added.
Intel Describes ISIL ‘Global Reach’
Key insights gleaned so far include information on ISIL’s presence in Manbij and its “global reach,” including hundreds of foreign ISIL fighters associated with more than 40 different countries, Ryder said. The battle to retake Manbij has become an urban fight, he told reporters, with advancing SDF fighters maneuvering through “countless snipers and explosives belts.”
In some areas, the SDF has encountered as many as 600 improvised explosive devices in a small area, Ryder noted, calling it a defensive tactic frequently employed by ISIL enemy fighters. “The SDF so far [has] been addressing this threat effectively [by] approaching the bombs cautiously and with an acknowledgement that the explosives can impact the city’s civilian population,” he said.
And similar to other urban fights such as those in Kobana and Ramadi, the battle for Manbij will be a conducted in a measured pace to liberate the city and its people, the colonel said. “It will take time, it will not be easy, and we are confident that the SDF will eventually take back the city and seize this key terrain from ISIL,” Ryder emphasized.
In Iraq, the Iraqi security forces’ siege of Qayyarah West Airfield captured a key piece of terrain that is expected to be useful for the eventual isolation of Mosul, he said. Ryder re-emphasized Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s remarks earlier this week concerning the additional 560 U.S. forces deploying to Iraq in a support role to expand Qayyarah West Airfield to provide an additional logistics node that will further enable Iraqi security forces operations.
Pushing Toward Qayyarah
Iraqi forces continue to push toward the city of Qayyarah and have liberated the village of Ijhala Sharqi from ISIL, which lies between the airfield and Qayyarah, Ryder said.
“ISIL once measured its success by the amount of territory it controlled and the rapid pace of their offensive operations to seize ground,” the Centcom spokesman said. But the territory that ISIL holds continues to shrink as the terrorist organization finds itself continually squeezed on multiple fronts by indigenous counter-ISIL forces and coalition airpower, he noted.
“These forces fighting ISIL are moving at a deliberate, steady and sustainable pace across the battlespace, enabled by the coalition’s consistent support from our considerable capabilities on the ground, sea, air and space,” Ryder said.