WASHINGTON — The liberation of the northern Syrian city of Jarabulus is another important milestone in efforts to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters today.
"Syrian opposition forces supported by coalition air power and the Turkish military are now in control of Jarabulus on the Turkey-Syria border," Cook said.
Operations are ongoing to clear pockets of resistance and improvised explosive devices left by ISIL, and the coalition conducted additional airstrikes today in support of the effort, Cook said.
Looking Toward Raqqa
The developments in Jarabulus build on the recent success of the Syrian Democratic Forces in freeing the city of Manbij from ISIL, he said. Jarabulus, which is north of Manbij, had been used as a route for foreign fighters, and now the Manbij-to-Jarabulus route is no longer available to ISIL terrorists, Cook said. The route from Manbij to Raqqa has also been severed as a result of recent operations, he added. "This is a major blow to ISIL," Cook said, adding that the Jarabulus operation in particular is "another significant step forward for the campaign." Partnered forces are focused on the next major objective in Syria, retaking Raqqa, the so-called capital of the self-described ISIL caliphate, he said.
Cook, who reported progress as well in Libya and Iraq, said challenges remain in defeating ISIL, acknowledging that it will not be done "quickly, easily or without cost."
But, he added, "there is no question that on every front today ISIL is under increasing pressure from a global coalition dedicated to its defeat."
Iraq, Libya Successes in Fight
Iraqi security forces have made gains in efforts to retake the city of Qayyarah, south of Mosul, the press secretary said. "Qayyarah is an important objective on the way to the eventual liberation of Mosul," he told reporters, adding that Kurdish peshmerga forces have made key advances in efforts to envelop Mosul.
Meanwhile, in Libya, forces supporting the Government of National Accord continue to "take the fight to ISIL with the help of U.S. air power," he said. The prime minister of the Government of National Accord, Fayez Sarraj, met yesterday with the commander of U.S. Africa Command, Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, and received an update on U.S. support for the counter-ISIL fight in Libya at Africom headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, Cook said. The parties also discussed a common path forward, he added.
Condolences for Victims of Kabul Attack
Cook expressed condolences to the victims of a terrorist attack on the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, in which gunmen killed at least a dozen people, including students.
"The United States, of course, strongly condemns this attack in which terrorists targeted a university dedicated to helping Afghans prepare themselves and their nation for a brighter future," he said. "On behalf of the secretary and everyone in the Department of Defense, I offer our condolences to the families of the victims killed in this attack, as well as the wounded."
The press secretary thanked the Afghan security forces who responded decisively to this incident, saying they saved lives and prevented an even larger tragedy.