Coalition Begins Attacks on Last ISIS Pockets in Iraq

By Joshua Philipp, The Epoch Times
September 21, 2017 6:08 pm Last Updated: September 23, 2017 12:21 pm

Coalition forces have begun attacks in Iraq to free western Anbar and Huwayjah from the control of ISIS terrorists. These are the last two areas in the country where ISIS still holds power.

On the morning of Sept. 21, Iraqi security forces began “major combat operations” in Huwayjah, according to a Department of Defense (DOD) press release. ISIS had seized control of the city in early 2014, but it was isolated during the battle in Mosul.

Throughout the morning, Iraqi forces cleared 11 villages of ISIS terrorists. The attacks on the key city follow recent successful battles by Iraqi forces in and around Tal Afar, Akashat, Haditha, and Rayhanna.

“The rapid, recent success of the Iraqi security forces points to [their] momentum in the campaign to destroy ISIS in Iraq,” said U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, in the press release.

“ISIS has never been capable of providing effective governance or services that benefited the people under its rule,” he said. “Its defeat in Iraq further demonstrates ISIS is an organization in decline, whose leaders are no longer capable of effective military command and control.”

Dillon noted in a separate release that ISIS is not only losing ground, but it is “failing in every battle.” Soon, he said, “ISIS will have no sanctuary anywhere in Iraq”

The Iraqi forces leading the battle include the Iraqi army, its federal and local police, Peshmerga forces, its counterterrorism service, and tribal forces. They have freed four million people from regions formerly held by ISIS, and cleared close to 15,800 square miles.

Dillon said in a video “the progress made against ISIS throughout Iraq is due to the combined efforts of the Iraqi security forces working together.”

“Together, all these forces have beaten ISIS decisively and repeatedly,” he said.

In the fight against ISIS, the Trump administration is implementing what Defense Secretary James Mattis has described as an “annihilation” strategy. He explained this during a CBS interview in May: “Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to North Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia, to Africa.”

While the operations move forward in Iraq, similar operations under the coalition are moving forward against ISIS territory in Syria.

Dillon said coalition and Russian military officials recently met face-to-face to discuss their operations, and to ensure neither side attacks the other and to clear any frictions as they move forward.

Russia has allied with Assad government forces in Syria, and has in the past attacked other groups in the region fighting ISIS. Thus the operations in Syria are slightly more complex, and require what Dillon referred to as “de-confliction efforts” so that all sides can focus on defeating ISIS.

In Syria, the Syrian Defense Forces of the coalition have begun “anti-ISIS clearance operations” in Dayr Az Zawr province, northeast of Dayr Az Zawr city. Dillon noted that in the two weeks since the operations began, coalition forces have taken more than 193 square miles of territory.

“We still expect tough fighting ahead, but with our partners’ battlefield successes, increased capacity and continued support from a 73-member coalition, we will keep the pressure on until ISIS is defeated in both Iraq and Syria,” Dillon said.