WASHINGTON — The U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition has cleared more urban strongholds held by the terrorists in eastern Syria and has increased aerial bombardments to shatter hideouts and terrorists marauding in the desert.
The last — and some Pentagon officials say the fiercest — remainders of ISIS are east of the town of Kashmah, a village on the Euphrates River near the border with Iraq, and strewn throughout more remote parts of eastern Syria.
“The SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] liberated the town of Hajin on December 25, 2018. This was a milestone, since it was among the largest of the last remaining ISIS strongholds in the Middle Euphrates River Valley (MERV),” Cdr. Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesperson, told TMN on Friday.
“Coalition forces continue to assist our Syrian partners with close air support and artillery strikes in the MERV,” he said. “On January 2, 2019, the SDF liberated the town of Kashmah, which is the third town following Hajin and Abu Hassam liberated in the past month. We will continue to work with the coalition and regional partners toward an enduring defeat of ISIS.”
ISIS elements are hunkered in villages along the Euphrates, from the border with Iraq to south of Hajin. More problematic has been the ISIS ability to dig tunnels and plant bombs, Pentagon officials said.
As ground efforts further cornered ISIS, air attacks have increased, according to Pentagon reports.
From Dec. 16-29, 2018, there were 469 strikes consisting of 1,001 engagements in Syria against ISIS targets and nine strikes consisting of 14 engagements in Iraq against ISIS targets, according to Operation Inherent Resolve’s media page.
One week before, from Dec. 9-Dec. 15, 2018, there were 208 strikes consisting of 378 engagements in Syria, according to the media page.
In Syria, the Dec. 16-29 airstrikes “engaged 666 ISIS tactical units, and destroyed 291 fighting positions, 153 staging areas, 67 supply routes, 27 command and control nodes, 27 petroleum oil lubricant storage facilities, 25 vehicles, 14 tunnels, 14 weapons cache, 13 improvised explosive device facilities, seven heavy weapons systems, six pieces of heavy equipment, seven buildings, five petroleum oil and lubricant tankers, five bridges, four armored vehicles, two caves, two vehicle borne improvised explosive devices, two motorcycles, two vehicle borne improvised explosive device facilities, three mortar launching sites, one boat, one barge, and one unmanned aircraft system; and damaged seven fighting positions, four staging areas, two vehicles, one armored vehicle, one command and control node and one heavy weapon system; and suppressed 70 fighting positions, 12 vehicles, 10 staging areas and one armored vehicles,” the report said.
In Iraq, the strikes engaged “one ISIS tactical units [sic], and destroyed eight caves and five buildings,” the report said.