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Official: Coalition Forces Continue to Battle ISIL in Syria, Iraq

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, December 18, 2015 — U.S.-led coalition forces continue to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant extremists in Iraq and Syria across the breadth and depth of the battlefield, Operation Inherent Resolve Spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters today via satellite feed from Baghdad.

“The Iraqi security forces continued clearing operations in Beiji to eliminate pockets of resistance,” he said, adding the operational main focus is north of the city in the Makhmour Mountains.

Coalition forces in Sinjar supported peshmerga fighters in clearing operations with “dynamic airstrikes,” Warren said. Iraqi security forces also moved several brigade-sized units into positions around Fallujah and are isolating ISIL with several brigade-sized units into positions around the city.

ISIL command and control continues to be disrupted in the city of Hit by airstrikes, he said. Operations between Hit and Haditha by joint ISF and Sunni tribal forces operations also helped isolate Ramadi, Fallujah and the entire Euphrates River Valley, Warren said, calling the area the Hit-Haditha corridor.

The Syrian Democratic Forces are marshalling in the city of Hawl to prepare for its push into Shaddadi, he said.

With tough fighting in the past week around Syria’s Mar’a line where Iraqi forces have traded punches and terrain with ISIL fighters, the coalition continues to support vetted Syrian Opposition Forces with airstrikes, Warren said.

Deep Fights Shape Future Ops

“Our deep fights continue to shape the battlefield for future operations,” Warren noted.

“In Deir ez-Zor, [Syria] we continue disrupting revenue by striking oil infrastructure that supports ISIL's illicit oil activities,” and Operation Tidal Wave II struck another gas and oil separation plant in that area, Dec. 13, he added.

Turning back to Iraq operations, Warren said training, equipping, advising and assisting Iraqi security forces continues, adding that nearly 16,000 Iraqi troops have been trained and equipped since the start of building partner capacity operations and more than 4,300 are in training this week.

“This effort continues while the [Iraqi] army is engaged in combat operations, so it is truly -- it is like building and airplane while in flight,” he said.

ISF Destroys VBIED

There were significant fights in Ramadi and northern Iraq this week, Warren said.

“In each place, ISIL was able to muster an offensive effort, which tells us that they have still got some fight left in them,” he said.

An ISIL attack in Ramadi, Dec. 15, allowed the enemy to temporarily push the Iraqi security forces off the Palestine Bridge, he said.

After seizing the bridge, ISIL sent vehicle-borne improvised explosive device truck bombs, supported by infantry toward the Anbar ops center to retake that key objective. The ISF, using U.S.-provided AT-4s were able to destroy the VBIED, killed the infantry, supported and repelled the attack,” Warren said.

The coalition’s air power “bought time” for the ISF to organize a counter attack and the force regained the Palestine Bridge, he said.

Coalition aircraft from five nations responded to the ISIL attack, and expended nearly 100 precision munitions during the overnight battle, Warren said. ISIL used several construction vehicles such as excavators, to breach the berms and defensive emplacements around the forward line of own troops, he said, adding that coalition aircraft destroyed every vehicle.

Key ISIL Infrastructure Destroyed in Attack

During the ISIL attack, coalition B-1 bomber aircraft surged, assisting peshmerga’s success by simultaneously attacking ISIL “in the heart of their so-called Caliphate [headquarters] in Raqqa,” Warren said.

Also during ISIL’s attack, coalition aircraft “simultaneously struck multiple targets in Raqqa against [ISIL] headquarters, training camps and another building,” he said. “So while ISIL was trying to strike in the flank of the ISF, [the coalition] knocked the attack back by striking right into ISIL’s heart.”

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @Moon Cronk)