WASHINGTON, Dec. 29, 2015 —
Iraq raised its national flag over the provincial government center in downtown Ramadi yesterday, following the “considerable success” of Iraqi forces in recapturing the key city from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant control, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said today.
Speaking to reporters via live satellite feed from Baghdad, Warren called the clearance of the government center “a significant milestone, [which] is the result of many months' hard work.” Ramadi’s strategic location on the highway connecting Iraq with Syria and Jordan made it an important target in the fight to stop ISIL, which has held the city since May.
The U.S.-led coalition has conducted more than 630 airstrikes since July, he said, with more than 150 occurring in just the last month.
“We trained several of the Iraqi army brigades, [counterterrorism service] units and police forces who fought there,” Warren said. “We provided specialized engineering equipment to clear improvised explosive devices, a floating bridge to help get combat power into downtown Ramadi, and we partnered with the Iraqis to give advice and assistance at multiple Iraqi army headquarters.”
Anti-ISIL Battles Ongoing
Close fighting continues in several areas in Iraq, Warren said.
In Sinjar, Iraqi forces continue to keep relentless pressure on ISIL fighters, he said.
“When ISIL lost Sinjar last month, [it] also lost the ability to use Highway 47 between Raqqa and Mosul,” Warren explained, adding that this forced them onto much slower secondary roads through the desert south of Sinjar and Tal Afar.
“On Dec. 25 and 26, we conducted a series of strikes on the secondary roads to further degrade ISIL's ability to move fighters and supplies the between Iraq and Syria,” he said.
Syrian Defense Forces Take Tishreen
In Tishreen, Syria, northwest of Raqqa, anti-ISIL Syrian defense forces captured the Tishreen hydroelectric dam late Dec. 26, Warren said, adding that the dam sits on the Euphrates River, about 56 miles east of Aleppo.
Enabled by nearly 26 airstrikes in the last several days, the Kurdish-Arab alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces rapidly advanced to seize the dam, which ISIL had controlled since November 2012, the spokesman said.
“Losing this dam is significant because it denies ISIL an important logistics route between the Manbij pocket and Raqqa,” Warren said.
“During the four-day offensive to capture the dam, the SDF liberated more than 10 villages and 235 square kilometers while coordinating strikes that killed [more than] 100 enemy combatants,” he said.
“As I have briefly highlighted, this has been a busy week,” Warren said.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)