By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2017 — The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is now on the verge of a devastating defeat in Raqqa, Syria, the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman said today.
Speaking to Pentagon reporters via teleconference from Baghdad, Army Col. Ryan S. Dillon called the impending collapse of ISIS in the city it declared the seat of its so-called caliphate “momentous,” noting that today is the third anniversary of coalition operations.
Three years ago, the global threat of ISIS was met with a U.S.-led coalition of 69 nations and four international organizations and partner forces on the ground, Dillon said. That coalition has beaten back ISIS on all fronts in Iraq and Syria.
Quickly Shrinking Territory
“ISIS in Iraq and Syria are all but isolated in their quickly shrinking territory,” he said, citing another hard-fought victory in Mosul, Iraq.
Raqqa is now more than 90 percent cleared of ISIS forces, he said.
“Over the past 96 hours, we have seen about 1,300 civilians assisted to safety by the [Syrian Democratic Forces], and just about 3,000 civilians rescued in the last week,” he said.
And in the last few days, about 350 fighters surrendered to the SDF in Raqqa, with several confirmed foreign fighters taken into custody after SDF screening, Dillon added.
Raqqa Clearance Speeds Up
Clearance of the remaining portion of Raqqa’s city center has accelerated after the SDF ensured the safety of civilians, he said, adding that the SDF have moved on the national hospital complex and the soccer stadium.
The SDF also fully cleared the Naim traffic circle, once a symbol of fear and terror under ISIS, where the enemy organization conducted public executions.
“In Raqqa and elsewhere across Syria, our focus remains on reducing risk to the civilians, while continuing to pursue and defeat ISIS terrorists at every opportunity as they retreat into the remaining held areas in the Middle Euphrates River Valley,” Dillon said.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, coalition forces remain focused on supporting the Iraqi offensive against ISIS holdouts in Rawa and Qaim in western Anbar province, the spokesman said.
In the past week, the coalition has conducted more than 30 strikes against ISIS military targets in the area, including command-and-control facilities, car-bomb factories, weapons caches and a training camp, he added.
Back-clearance operations are ongoing in areas recently liberated from ISIS.
“In the Tal Afar area, since the beginning of this month, the [Iraqi forces] have found [and] removed large caches of weapons and explosives left behind by ISIS,” Dillon said. “These caches contain a total of 550 improvised explosive devices, 1,800 mortars, 25 land mines, 101 suicide vests, 16 tunnels and 11 factories for making IED’s.”