Forces backed by the United States have launched an offensive to drive ISIS from its final strongholds

US-backed forces launch offensive against final ISIS strongholds in Syria

Forces backed by the United States have launched an offensive to drive ISIS from its final strongholds in northeast Syria, U.S. officials announced Tuesday.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by the U.S. military and its international coalition, announced Tuesday that it would begin offensive operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.

“We continue to stand alongside our partners and ensure the liberation of all terrain held by ISIS terrorists,” Maj. Gen. James Jarrard, commanding general of the Special Operations Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, said in a statement. “This is a key milestone in bringing lasting stability to both Iraq and Syria.”

In a separate statement, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nuaert said that the “days of ISIS controlling territory and terrorizing the people of Syria are coming to an end.”

 

Attempting to break last ISIS holdouts: Operations against ISIS in the Middle Eastern river valley stalled earlier this year after Turkey launched an offensive against Kurdish forces in Afrin, Syria. Many of the Kurdish fighters in the SDF — which make up the bulk of that force — left the fight against ISIS to go bolster fellow Kurds in Afrin.

But the Kurdish fighters have been returning to the SDF since Turkey seized Afrin, Pentagon officials have said.

On Tuesday, the SDF promised to end ISIS’s presence in eastern Syria “once and for all.”

 

Mixed messages on progress: Pentagon officials have said ISIS has lost about 90 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria. That’s down from a previous assessment that the terrorist group lost 98 percent of its territory — a change Pentagon officials have attributed to ISIS gains in areas that were controlled by forces loyal to the Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The latest offensive comes after President Trump promised last month that U.S. troops would be coming home “very soon.”

He’s since walked that back, agreeing to leave U.S. troops in Syria until ISIS is defeated and suggesting he’s open to leaving troops there beyond that.

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