War on Terrorism

Friday, December 29, 2017

Mattis Says Operations Against ISIS Will Change in 2018



By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2017 — The destruction of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s physical caliphate will change the way the coalition will go after the terror group, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told Pentagon reporters here today.

Operations against the terror group dominated the informal press gaggle with the secretary.

“We sit here today at the end of 2017, the caliphate is on the run, we’re breaking them,” he said.

Some ISIS terrorists escaped the encirclement of Raqqa into the Middle Euphrates River Valley. “We are in the process of crushing the life out of the caliphate there while trying to keep the innocent people safe -- which is very hard with this group,” he said.

The demarcation line between the Assad regime and its ally Russia, and the Syrian Democratic Forces and the coalition, is the middle of the river in this area. Mattis said the line has held up well, and that communications between Russian and coalition forces continue.

ISIS Fighters ‘Will Have to be Hunted Down’

The ISIS fighters that escaped into the valley “will have to be hunted down,” Mattis said.

ISIS operatives who move into the region controlled by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Russians are another matter. The SDF and the coalition will not launch attacks past the demarcation line, Mattis said. Having the terrorists in their area is not in Assad’s or the Russian’s best interests. The United States tipping off Russia of a potential ISIS attack in St. Petersburg is an example of ways the countries can work together against the group.

Mattis stresses that the battle against ISIS is not over. While the group has been shattered, its survivors are looking for ways and places to reconstitute, he added.

“It’s only a safe haven if people give them one,” Mattis said.

In Iraq, the coalition will continue to work with the Iraqi government to train troops and police and develop the intelligence needed to find and take down terrorists trying to launch attacks.

“We need to drive this down to the point where it can be handled by local authorities -- police,” he said. “But right now, it is still very much a military intelligence type of operation as the police try to set up local operations. Eventually, it will be rule of law and local security forces.”

Hunting ISIS down is not over. “Am I worried about it? Not in the least,” Mattis said. “These guys have not proven they can stand against the Iraqi security forces [or] the SDF. They are best against unarmed men, women and children.”

Moving forward in Syria involves ensuring diplomats have what they need to solve this civil war.

ISIS ‘Brand’ Losing Luster

Looking to 2018, Mattis sees ISIS as being a “brand” for terrorists. “It can inspire lone wolf attacks; it can inspire other groups,” he said. “But it is less inspirational when they have lost their physical caliphate; it is less inspirational as the stories of what it was like living under their rule come out. I think it is a brand with a diminishing appeal, but the appeal is still there for those who go in for that philosophy.”

In both Iraq and Syria, U.S. troops will be shifting from an offensive terrain-seizing approach to a stabilizing effort focused on supporting the diplomatic approach, the secretary said. This will include clearing areas of improvised explosive devices, helping civil authorities set up water and electrical systems and helping reopen schools and working with police.

Strikes Target ISIS Terrorists in Syria, Iraq



SOUTHWEST ASIA, Dec. 29, 2017 — U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria between Dec. 22 and yesterday, conducting 46 strikes consisting of 93 engagements, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Officials reported details of the most recent strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Strikes in Syria

On Dec. 28 in Syria, coalition military forces conducted nine strikes consisting of 17 engagements against ISIS targets:

-- Near Abu Kamal, eight strikes engaged eight ISIS tactical units and destroyed an ISIS-held building and a staging area.

-- Near Shadaddi, a strike destroyed an unmanned aerial vehicle.

On Dec. 27 near Abu Kamal in Syria, coalition military forces conducted 10 strikes consisting of 22 engagements against ISIS targets, destroying three ISIS vehicles, a heavy machine gun, an ISIS line of communication and a logistics center.

On Dec. 26 near Abu Kamal in Syria, coalition military forces conducted five strikes consisting of 11 engagements against ISIS targets, destroying an ISIS logistics center and a fighting position.

On Dec. 25 near Abu Kamal in Syria, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of five engagements against ISIS targets, destroying an ISIS headquarters.

On Dec. 24 near Abu Kamal in Syria, coalition military forces conducted four strikes consisting of six engagements against ISIS targets, destroying a heavy machine gun and three ISIS vehicles.

On Dec. 23 near Abu Kamal in Syria, coalition military forces conducted four strikes consisting of five engagements against ISIS targets, destroying a UAV, an explosive hazard, an ISIS line of communication and a heavy weapon.

On Dec. 22 near Abu Kamal in Syria, coalition military forces conducted five strikes consisting of 10 engagements against ISIS targets, destroying a heavy machine gun, an ISIS vehicle, an ISIS line of communication and an explosive hazard.

Strikes in Iraq

On Dec. 28 near Jalula in Iraq, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of four engagements against ISIS targets, destroying an ISIS cave entrance.

On Dec. 27 near Rutbah in Iraq, coalition military forces conducted two strikes consisting of four engagements against ISIS targets, destroying an ISIS vehicle and an ISIS shelter.

On Dec. 26 near Asad in Iraq, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of one engagement against ISIS targets, destroying an ISIS tunnel.

There were no reported strikes conducted in Iraq on Dec. 25, 2017.

On Dec. 24 near Huwayjah in Iraq, coalition military forces conducted two strikes consisting of two engagements against ISIS targets, destroying two ISIS fighting positions and a cave.

On Dec. 23 near Huwayjah in Iraq, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of two engagements against ISIS targets, destroying four ISIS tunnel entrances.

On Dec. 22 near Mosul in Iraq, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of four engagements against ISIS targets, destroying an ISIS command-and-control center.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

These strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria also further limits the group's ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials said.

The list above contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing or remotely piloted aircraft; rocket-propelled artillery; and some ground-based tactical artillery when fired on planned targets, officials noted.

Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike, they added. A strike, as defined by the coalition, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect.

For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.
The task force does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Inherent Resolve Official Describes Defeat-ISIS Campaign Progress



By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28, 2017 — The coalition’s efforts against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have been successful, but there is still much to do to eradicate the group, British army Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney told Pentagon reporters yesterday.

Gedney is based in Baghdad and is the deputy commander for strategy and support at Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.

Gedney spoke via video conference and described progress made against ISIS this year, and what 2018 looks like.

In Syria, ISIS remains a threat, he said. Syrian Democratic Forces have isolated the remaining pockets of ISIS militants along the east bank of the Euphrates River and are methodically clearing areas to the east, in the Syrian desert along the border with Iraq, he said.

“The SDF, with coalition strike support, repelled ISIS attacks in the vicinity of Abu Hammam, with more than a dozen enemy killed,” Gedney said. “In total, coalition forces have conducted 23 strikes against ISIS targets in eastern Syria during the past week, destroying ISIS vehicles, weapons, explosives and a command-and-control center.”

ISIS has morphed back to its roots as a terror operation, Gedney said. They retain the ability to strike targets. They are operating more against the regime of Bashir al-Assad. “The Syrian regime has failed to demonstrate its ability to prevent the resurgence of ISIS on their own soil,” he said.

Providing Security, Stability in Liberated Areas

The defeat-ISIS coalition is working long range to ensure the group dies, the general said. That requires a commitment to security and stability in liberated areas. “In Raqqa, for example, the SDF and the Raqqa internal security forces are conducting an important and dangerous mission: They're bravely searching for and removing the many improvised explosive devices and booby traps left behind by ISIS terrorists, so local residents can return to their homes and get back to their lives,” he said.

And this is happening, Gedney said, noting people are returning to their neighborhoods as they are cleared. “Such efforts to establish safety and security help pave the way for civilian-led efforts to address local needs,” he said.

Residents are rebuilding homes, clearing roads and reopening shops, Gedney said. They are working to rehabilitate schools and get children back into classrooms.

“Over 830 metric tons of humanitarian aid have been delivered to more than 40 locations around the city of Raqqa, and local councils are facilitating the delivery of aid to civilians,” the general said.

In Iraq, forces are tracking down remnants of the group in Anbar province and in Baghdad, he said.

ISIS: Adaptive, Patient Enemy

ISIS is an adaptive, patient enemy, the general said. “We know they may attempt to work in smaller cells, and they … certainly will continue attempting their acts of terror whenever and wherever possible,” Gedney said. “However, the ISF's ongoing clearance operations should dispel any ideas that ISIS can simply vanish into the population they once terrorized and be forgotten about.”

The coalition will continue to support Iraqi efforts against the group, Gedney said. “To that end, the coalition will continue to partner with the ISF, advising, training and equipping them in their efforts to fully eliminate ISIS as a threat to Iraq,” he said. “We will tailor our support based on Iraqi requirements, with a particular emphasis on the capabilities needed to hold and secure the liberated areas.”

Like Syrians liberated from ISIS control, the Iraqi people also are voting with the feet, Gedney said. They are returning to homes, villages and cities that ISIS once controlled. “For the first time, we have seen the number of returnees climb above the number of those still displaced: Just over 2.8 million people have returned and just under 2.8 million remain displaced,” the general said.

Yet, in Syria, the coalition is disturbed by ISIS forces operating in areas controlled by the Assad regime with impunity, Gedney said. The Russian military is also operating in the area, and that complicates counter-ISIS operations in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. “The coalition will continue to deconflict with the Russian forces,” he said.

ISIS operations in that region shows the Assad regime “is clearly either unwilling or unable” to defeat ISIS within their borders, he said.

“We'll continue to deconflict with the Russians, but we've got no intention to operate in areas that are currently held by the regime,” Gedney said.