ISIS latest: Syrian forces step up attack final Islamic State enclave
Xeber24.net – SOHR
ISLAMIC State (ISIS) militants are “living their final moments” in the last of their territory near the Iraqi border as US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) battle to wipe out the extremist group.
ISIS has been driven back in recent months with the jihadis confined to an ever-shrinking enclave on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. SDF commanders have stepped up attacks over the past two days and taken control of the area between the ISIS territory enclave and the Iraqi border – cutting off their escape route. Mustafa Bali, SDF media office head, said: “They are living the final moments and realise that this battle is the battle to eliminate them.”
The SDF is a coalition led by the Kurdish YPG and backed by US air support.
A spokesman for the US-led coalition said the SDF were making “great progress” but “the fight continues”.
Colonel Sean Ryan said: “The SDF is making great progress and continues to liberate more territory once held by ISIS (Islamic State), but the fight continues.
“The lasting defeat of ISIS is still the mission and they still present a very real threat to the long-term stability in this region, so it is not over yet.”
The Kurdish YPG is leading the Syrian Democratic Forces in the battle against ISIS
Last month, Syrian Democratic Forces liberated the town of Hajin from ISIS militants after weeks of fighting.
The town in eastern Syria was the last remaining stronghold controlled by the jihadi group.
In a shock announcement last month, President Donald Trump revealed he would withdraw US forces from Syria, declaring they had succeeded in their mission to defeat Islamic State and were no longer needed.
The move prompted alarm among America’s allies in the region and since then, US officials have given mixed messages over Washington’s intentions.
National security adviser John Bolton has since attempted to walk back the pledge, insisting that the US would only leave once ISIS is completely defeated and Turkey provides guarantees that it will not use the withdrawal as an opportunity to attack the Kurdish YPG.
The SDF says this battle will wipe out Islamic State in Syria
On Friday, the US-led coalition said it had started the pullout, but officials later said only equipment, not troops, were going.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US remains committed to fighting Islamic State and stopping the group from growing.
Speaking in Egypt on Thursday, he said: “We are going to do it in a way in one particular place — Syria — differently.
“The United States’ decision — President Trump’s decision — to withdraw our troops has been made. We will do that.”
Today’s advances by the SDF in Syria come just a day after a senior ISIS commander was killed in a raid in Afghanistan.
The YPG risks being attacked by Turkey once the US pulls out of Syria
Khetab Emir was killed on January 10 in the eastern area of Nangarhar province, said Lt. Ubon Mendie, a spokesman for US forces based in Afghanistan.
Emir, who was known by multiple names, facilitated high-profile attacks and supplied Islamic State fighters with weapons and materials to make explosives, Mendie said in a statement.
Lt Mendie said: “His removal helps protect innocent Afghans from future Islamic State violence and weakens their presence in Nangarhar.”
Islamic State fighters have developed a stronghold in the province on Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan and have become one of the country’s most dangerous militant groups.