WASHINGTON — After seizing control on Friday of the Syrian city Manbij from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the Syrian Arab Coalition element of the Syrian Democratic Forces are clearing the city to make it safe for returning civilians, the Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman said today.
Army Col. Christopher Garver, briefing the press on operations by videoconference from Baghdad, said the clearance process is slow, dangerous and difficult because the terrorist army always leaves homemade bombs hidden in cities that it flees.
Yesterday in a statement Defense Secretary Ash Carter congratulated the people of Manbij, the Manbij Military Council, the Syrian-Arab Coalition and the Syrian Democratic Forces “for their success in liberating Manbij city from ISIL's hateful rule.”
The push forward, enabled by coalition support, is a significant milestone in the campaign to deal ISIL a lasting defeat, he said, adding that Manbij was a key transit point for ISIL fighters going into Syria and Iraq, and for external operators plotting attacks against U.S. allies, partners and homeland.
“The success in Manbij city will also help reinforce the growing isolation of Raqqa,” Garver said, “and enable us to achieve the next objective of our campaign in Syria, collapsing ISIL's control over that city.”
Operations in Iraq
In Iraq, the colonel said, Iraqi forces led by counter terrorism service forces have launched operations near Qayyarah in the Tigris River Valley.
Counter-ISIL forces are isolating the city of Qayarrah as they increase the pressure against the terrorists in the city, he added, noting that in the past seven days the coalition has conducted 22 strikes in support of operations in the Tigris River Valley.
In northern Iraq, Garver said, several thousand Peshmerga forces began clearance operations near in Abzax, Shanaf and Kanhash -- villages located southeast of Mosul -- in an operation that seeks to secure more ground lines of communication to provide multiple routes for forces and logistics supporting eventual Mosul liberation operations.
“The operations by the [Iraqi security forces] and the Peshmerga are complementary,” he said, “and support each other and the overall campaign against [ISIL] in Iraq.”
Garver announced that this press conference is his last as the public affairs officer and acting spokesperson for CJTF-OIR.
After the upcoming CJTF-OIR transfer of authority ceremony, he said, Army Col. Joseph E. Scrocca will take over as the task force public affairs officer and Air Force Col. John L. Dorrian will become the spokesperson.