ISIS militants on the defensive in Syria and Iraq

Members of the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a militia affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), detonate improvised explosive devices captured from Islamic State fighters near village of Umm al-Dhiban, northern Iraq, April 30, 2016. (Reuters)

ISIS has not gained significant ground since it took the Iraqi city of Ramadi a year ago, which it then lost in December, as the US-led coalition in Iraq and Syria has been helped by better intelligence and better equipped local forces, a senior US official said on Sunday.

ISIS "is shrinking so they are very much on the defensive," Brett McGurk, US President Barack Obama's special envoy in the fight against ISIS, told a news conference in Amman.

The comments came before Turkish and US-led coalition forces announced they had struck ISIS targets north of the Syrian city of Aleppo on Sunday, killing 27 fighters.

Turkish artillery and rocket launchers fired into Syria while warplanes from the U.S.-led coalition carried out three separate air campaigns, state-run Anadolu Agency said on Monday, citing military sources.

ISIS controls the cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria and is proving a potent threat abroad, claiming credit for major attacks in Paris in November and Brussels in March.

 Brett McGurk, the United States' envoy to the coalition against Islamic State, arrives to attend his a news conference in Amman, Jordan, May 15, 2016. Reuters/Muhammad Hamed

Brett McGurk, the United States' envoy to the coalition against Islamic State, arrives to attend his a news conference in Amman, Jordan, May 15, 2016. Reuters/Muhammad Hamed

McGurk said that US-led coalition effort to capture Mosul and Raqqa was making progress.

"We are doing precision strikes in Mosul almost every day," he added. "There is constant synchronized pressure," he said.

McGurk cited a recent operation in which the coalition located and targeted ISIS's cash stores in Mosul and "took out hundreds of millions of dollars out of their coffers."

This triggered a cash crunch that forced the militants to cut the pay of their fighters by half. He did not say when the operation took place.

The militants' nervousness was evidenced by the recent public executions in the city's main square and a widespread clamp down on internet services in Mosul, McGurk said.

In Raqqa, McGurk said valuable intelligence gathered from a major trove of data and information obtained by US special forces in a raid in eastern Syria last year allowed the coalition to better target militants, McGurk said.

"We will be beginning over the coming weeks and months a pressure campaign on Raqqa in all its aspects," said McGurk.

President Barack Obama's decision last month to raise the number of special forces in northern Syria which was the biggest expansion of US ground troops since its civil war began, would help accelerate recent gains by US-backed local forces, McGurk said.

He cited the militants' loss of the strategic town of Shadadi in northeast Syria in February to the US-backed Syria Democratic Forces formed from Kurdish and Arab forces.

"We don't want US forces cleaning these cities... We believe a sustainable model is for local people to take back their territories and homes and it's took some time to organize local forces to do that. You can see we are starting to have some real momentum now," he added.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48
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