WASHINGTON — The fight against ISIS in Syria is very tough and dangerous, and should not be confused with the setting of a television sitcom, Col. Sean Ryan of Operation Inherent Resolve, reminded on Tuesday.
“This is definitely not Mayberry,” Ryan, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, told Pentagon reporters Tuesday. “People are dying, there are lots of booby traps and IEDS (explosive devices) and suicide bombers.”
Mayberry is the fictional North Carolina town that was home to Sheriff Andy Taylor and a cast of amenable characters where politeness and goodness usually won the day. “The Andy Griffith Show” starred the actor by that name as Sheriff Taylor and ran from 1960 to 1968; it was followed by a spinoff, “Mayberry RFD,” which ran from 1968 to 1971.
Ryan made the comment in response to a reporter’s question as to why the same metrics are being used to describe the strength of ISIS today that were being used 11 months ago. Ryan was asked if that meant there has not been actual progress in eliminating ISIS or its remaining land holdings.
“It’s not about (territory); it is about capability,” Ryan said. “It is tracking the money down, taking away logistical support. There is no more (ISIS) will to fight; that is progress.”
Ryan spoke to reporters from Baghdad via tele-link. The briefing ended before he could be asked to balance his first comment on how deadly the fight is with his remarks about ISIS having no more will to fight.
He said a recent counter-attack by ISIS against coalition ground forces was a surprise and he attributed their success to poor weather conditions — which precluded air strikes — and essentially getting lucky.
“Anyone could have a good day and they had their’s,” Ryan said. “It just happened that one day and the SDF (Syrian Democratic Force) beat them right back.
“We regained the territory that was lost,” he said. “There were casualties inflicted on both sides.”
Rain said there have been more than 100 strikes in the past week by various entities in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, the focal point of the remaining U.S-led anti-ISIS effort. He declined to name who was involved the attacks.
“I’m not going to name and shame anyone,” he said.
He also said there have been no significant instances of conflict or tension between U.S. troops and Russian surrogate militia since February, when more than 200 Russian soldiers were killed after attacking U.S. and coalition forces. He did not define “significant.”
That statement seemingly is at odds with comments made last week by Ambassador James Jeffrey, U.S. Special Representative for Syria Engagement. Speaking to the Russian newspaper Kommersant and state-owned news agency RIA Novosti, Jeffrey said U.S. and Russian forces have battled a dozen times in Syria, including instances with shots and other weapons fired.
“There have been various engagements, some involving exchange of fire, some not,” Jeffrey told the journalists, according to Stars and Stripes newspaper.
“U.S. forces are legitimately in Syria, supporting local forces in the fight against Da’esh (ISIS) and as appropriate — and this has occurred about a dozen times in one or another place in Syria — they exercise the right of self-defense when they feel threatened,” Jeffrey said, according to the newspaper.
Ryan suggested those instances could have been prior to February.