The next major prize being eyed by the coalition is the Syrian associated with Raqqa, the would-be caliphate’s one time “capital. ” Lt. Gen. Townsend told CNN last week that following a capture of Mosul, Raqqa had been “now job number one. ”
Speaking to reporters upon Monday Pentagon spokesman US Navy blue Capt. Jeff Davis called Syria “our biggest focus of work. ”
The US and its particular coalition allies are using artillery plus airstrikes to back the Syrian Democratic Forces, a mix of Arab plus Kurdish fighters, in their assault upon Raqqa.
There are about 55, 000 SDF fighters, made up of 31, 000 Kurds and 24, 000 Arabs, however the coalition says it will primarily become Arab fighters that take part in the particular battle for Raqqa.
The US-led coalition has trained some 8, 1000 SDF fighters and US army advisers have accompanied SDF systems as they have pushed into the internal areas of Raqqa.
But despite some rapid preliminary progress, coalition officials have stated that the SDF has encountered harder resistance in recent days.
“The SDF possess incurred casualties as they have fulfilled some stiffening resistance from ISIS as they move closer into the town center, ” US Army Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for that coalition, told reporters last week.
Davis said ISIS was mounting a robust defense, making use of improvised explosive devices, car bombs and drones, but added that this terror group was “struggling in order to counter the SDF’s multiples strategies of advance. ”
Some reports had recommended that the SDF had paused the push on Raqqa because of casualties. However coalition officials said that it was not in fact the case, with Davis noting the group had gained area from ISIS over the last 24 hours.
The coalition estimations that the ranks of ISIS practitioners in Raqqa has been reduced through 2, 500 to 2, 1000 since the assault began about forty days ago.
The coalition is also training the “hold-force” to secure Raqqa after ISIS is ejected from the city. The US defense official told CNN that some 250 members of the force had been trained and the objective is that number will reach a few, 000.
Tal Afar, Iraq
“Much function remains to be done in Iraq even with the liberation of Mosul, inch Davis told reporters Monday.
He called Tal Afar, Hawija and the town associated with Al Qaim in the Middle Euphrates Water valley “the three large locations that I would say are still for the to-do list”
The ISIS-held town of Tal Afar is only about 50 kilometers west of Mosul and Davis said that Iraq’s 15th Armored Department is already making preparations to advance around the city.
The particular coalition estimates that there are about seven hundred ISIS fighters in Tal Very far.
“The coalition continues to support the (Iraqi Security Forces) as they carry out comprehensive clearance operations in Mosul plus prepare for follow on operations within Tal Afar, ” Davis stated while adding that there was nevertheless significant work to do in Mosul.
Davis stated that Iraqi soldiers, counterterrorism units plus federal police were still executing “detailed clearance operations” of passageways and caves in Mosul plus were “on the lookout pertaining to ISIS fighters that are hiding plus working to identify explosive devices which could threaten friendly forces and civilians. ”
Iraqi officials have expressed confidence they have enough personnel to clear ISIS through Tal Afar and elsewhere within Iraq.
“We have enough forces to liberate what exactly is remaining, ” Iraq’s military speaker, Brig. Gen. Brigadier Yahya Rasool told reporters at the Pentagon a week ago.
‘s Qaim and Hawija
“There are foe enclaves in Hawija, enemy enclaves in western Anbar. The Iraqi Security Forces and the coalition possess a plan to get after them and we’ll move with all due speed to achieve that, ” Townsend told reporters a week ago.
Al Qaim is a town in western Anbar province on the Iraq-Syria border that will sits along the Euphrates River Area. It is connected to a swath associated with territory that ISIS controls within Syria.
The particular coalition believes that ISIS provides about 1, 000 fighters within Al Qaim.
Hawijeh is close to the associated with Kirkuk, an area currently controlled simply by US-backed Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
Coalition officials think that the fewer than 1, 000 ISIS fighters left in Hawija are usually largely isolated.
ISIS is “largely contained in Hawija, ” Townsend said, adding which they were “contained to the east with the Kurdish defensive line, and included to the west by an Iraqi defensive line. ”
Middle Euphrates Lake Valley, Syria
Perhaps the most challenging ISIS target will be in the Syrian part of the Middle Euphrates River Valley.
US defense authorities have said that they have observed best ISIS officials increasingly abandoning Raqqa for towns and cities additional south along the Euphrates River, like Mayadin and Deir-e-Zor.
The coalition has been performing numerous airstrikes in the area, killing a number of ISIS leaders.
Dillon said “the majority” associated with airstrikes targeting senior ISIS commanders were taking place in that area.
“We do still strike the middle Euphrates River Area and those are deliberate strikes, discover not full-on combat operations happening there, ” Dillon said.
There are some pro-regime makes fighting ISIS in the area near Deir-e-Zoir but the thousands of ISIS fighters in this area are relatively far from any kind of coalition-backed forces at this point in time, spreading doubt on when an offensive can take place there.