By DoD News
By Cheryl Pellerin
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is on the run in Syria and Iraq and the terrorist group can’t stop the progress that coalition-partnered Iraqi and Syrian forces have made over the past two years, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Army Col. Ryan Dillon told Pentagon reporters Thursday during a video conference from Baghdad.
ISIS’s so-called caliphate is crumbling inside and out, and the coalition will not allow the terrorist organization to regroup, Dillon said.
ISIS’s morale is plummeting as the terrorist group continues to lose territory in Syria and Iraq, the colonel said.
“We have reflections of serious internal conflicts within ISIS’s ranks,” he said.
ISIS leaders “have abandoned fighters to die, local fighters are being left to rot where they fall, while foreign fighters receive proper burials,” the colonel added, “and the remaining inexperienced fighters are making rookie mistakes — blowing themselves and fellow fighters up accidentally in preparation for combat.”
Coalition efforts to defeat ISIS in Syria are focused on Raqqa, Dillon said, but the coalition will strike ISIS wherever it goes.
Coalition and partner forces in Iraq and Syria will not allow the terrorist organization the time, resources or sanctuary to plan, plot, organize or inspire attacks, he added, noting that the war is far from over, but progress made to date is promising.
The Syrian Democratic Forces are in the third week of offensive operations in Raqqa to defeat ISIS in its self-proclaimed capital. This week, Dillon said, the SDF have cleared about 7.5 square miles from ISIS in and around Raqqa.
The SDF are pressuring fighters abandoned by the ISIS leadership from multiple axes around the city, he added. On the northeast side of the city the SDF continue to work through a significant defensive homemade-bomb belt outside a sugar factory.
On the southeast side the SDF have reached the northernmost part of the ancient Rafiqah Wall, and they have continued to advance eastward, south of the Euphrates River, moving to completely encircle ISIS in Raqqa, Dillon said.
“The SDF now control all high-speed avenues of approach into Raqqa from the south,” he said, “and the east-west deconfliction line south of the Euphrates is holding as regime forces remain south and SDF forces remain north of that agreed-upon line.”
In southern Syria, the colonel said, regime forces have weapons trained on ISIS and the coalition continues to train partner forces in and around At Tanf.
In Iraq, Dillon said, this morning in a dawn assault Iraqi counterterrorism service forces pushed further into the Mosul old city, liberating the al-Nuri mosque area. Last week ISIS militants blew up the mosque and the famous al-Hadba minaret when CTS forces moved to within 100 meters.
Iraqi security forces continued to advance on the two ISIS holdouts — the old city and the al-Jamhuri hospital complex.
The hospital, north of the old city, sits on high ground, the colonel said, and has been the terrorist group’s 11-story killing tower.
“They’ve used this tower to murder hundreds of civilians, women and children, who have attempted to flee the city,” he added.
The old city is a difficult, dense, suffocating fight, Dillon said.
“Tight alleyways with booby traps, civilians and ISIS fighters around every corner make the Iraqi security force’s advance extremely challenging. But Iraqi grit, determination and support from the coalition will lead to the imminent liberation,” he said.
Dillon said it’s inevitable that ISIS soon will lose its capital in Iraq and its largest population center, but ISIS maintains strongholds elsewhere in Iraq.
A Common Enemy
“What comes next and where to defeat ISIS is a decision that will be made by the government of Iraq,” the colonel said. “Whether the next fight against ISIS is Tal Afar, al-Hawija or al-Qaim, the coalition will continue to support our Iraqi partners to defeat our common enemy.”
The colonel noted that ISIS oil revenue production has plummeted because of coalition pressure.
And the coalition continues to conduct planned precision strikes against ISIS throughout Iraq and Syria, he said.
More than 84,000 square kilometers of territory once held by ISIS have been cleared; more than 4 million people have been freed of ISIS control; nearly 2 million displaced have returned to their homes in Iraq; and foreign fighters who once flowed into Iraq and Syria at hundreds per week now have slowed to a handful per month, Dillon added.
“These are all concrete examples of a steady trend in the direction we are headed to completely take away ISIS’s physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria,” he said. “The coalition is on a fixed course with a sound and proven strategy, committed to the military defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.”