Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, December 2016
Russian-Iranian-Syrian Regime Forces and Militias Win Against Sunni Muslim Arabs in Aleppo, More Security for Israel
December 14, 2016
The coalition which fights the Islamic State and other Sunni groups in Syria consists of US-led NATO forces, Russian forces, Syrian Alewite government forces, Iranian-backed Shi'i militias, and Kurdish peshmerga forces. The coalition's continuous attacks have resulted in the killing of thousands of Iraqi Sunni Muslim Arabs and the eviction of thousands as a result of the destruction of their cities and villages.
Millions of Sunni Muslim Arabs have already left their cities and villages as the fighting intensifies towards an all-attack by the US-led coalition on Raqqa and Mosul, as well as by the Russian-regime attacks on other cities. The end outcome is going to be evicting (ethnic cleansing of) Sunni Muslim Arabs from Syria, particularly the upper Euphrates region of northwestern Iraq and northeastern Syria.
The larger context for understanding the Syrian war (and other wars in the Middle East) is the Zionist-Israeli plan of destroying the Arab Middle Eastern states in preparation for the establishment of the greater Israeli empire, from the Nile of Egypt to the Euphrates of Iraq.
For a background, read:
Reuters, Wednesday, December 14, 2016,10:55am EST
When rebel fighters launched a last desperate attempt to break the siege of Aleppo in October, they were beaten back - not by the Syrian army but by the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah fighting on its behalf, a senior official in the pro-government alliance said.
In the build-up to the final battle for Syria's second city, scores of fighters from a single Iraqi Shi'ite militia were killed in just two days of combat this summer, said a commander of another group fighting for President Bashar al-Assad.
Even in the last hours of fighting in Aleppo, allied Iraqi militia were at the vanguard. The U.N. human rights office said it had reports that the Syrian army and an allied Iraqi militia had killed at least 82 civilians in captured city districts - allegations denied by the army and militia in question.
These episodes show how in the decisive battle of Syria's nearly six-year-old civil war, Assad drew heavily on foreign Shi'ite militias sponsored by Iran for his most important victory to date.
Rebel sources say that among fighters taken prisoner by insurgents in the last months of Assad's campaign to retake Aleppo, there was not a single Syrian soldier.
To be sure, Russian air strikes were the most important factor in Assad's triumph. They enabled his forces to press the siege of rebel-held eastern Aleppo to devastating effect and regain full control of what was Syria's biggest city and economic hub before the war.
But on the ground, Shi'ite militias from as far afield as Afghanistan played an important role for Assad, a member of the minority Alawite sect which is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
Among these militias, which fought in and around Aleppo alongside the Tiger Force, an elite Syrian army unit lavishly backed by Russia, was the Ansar Allah al-Awfiya group.
The rebels inflicted big losses on the militia's fighters by hitting them with a barrage of guided anti-tank missiles as they retreated in an area outside Aleppo, according to the militia commander, also an Iraqi. Reuters was unable to confirm the account with the group itself.
But Hezbollah, battle-hardened by years of conflict with Israel, played an even more important role. It ensured the siege was not broken by helping thwart a series of suicide attacks, according to the official in the pro-Assad military alliance.
"If they (the suicide attacks) had succeeded we would have been the ones under siege," he said.
Asked about the role of Shi'ite militias in the battle for Aleppo, a Syrian military source said army statements always referred to the "allied forces" working with the army. Last year Assad publicly credited Hezbollah for its role.
Victory in Aleppo leaves Assad virtually unassailable by the rebels but he still faces great challenges in restoring the power of his state. While he controls the most important cities in western Syria and the coast, armed groups including Islamic State control swathes of territory elsewhere in Syria.
Assad could face prolonged guerrilla warfare from forces including the Nusra Front.
But victory in Aleppo shows how the direction of the civil war has shifted with the support of his allies.
"The course of events in Aleppo in the last few months ... has turned the tide in Syria's war in favor of the Syrian government and resistance movement," said Hossein Salami, the deputy head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which has also deployed forces in the protracted campaign for Aleppo.
He was referring to a regional alliance grouping Hezbollah, Iran and Syria.
Less than 18 months ago, Assad's forces had been losing ground across Syria and he had acknowledged there was a manpower problem in his army. Russia's decision to intervene militarily in September 2015 helped prop up Assad, while protecting its own interests in the region.
Russian warplanes played a key role in imposing the siege, and in August launched some of their most powerful sorties yet to thwart a rebel attempt to break the siege from the south.
The rebels' last attempt to break the siege came in late October, and was spearheaded by suicide car and truck bomb attacks on the western flank of government-held west Aleppo.
Syrian army soldiers fled when the first trucks, protected by makeshift armor, careered towards their positions. But Hezbollah sharp shooters stood their ground and opened fire, blowing up the trucks before they could hit their targets.
One Hezbollah fighter who destroyed one of the suicide truck bombs by hitting it from a distance of 200 meters (220 yards) was killed by the pressure of the blast.
"Hezbollah took a decision to halt the weapon of the car bomb regardless of how many martyrs it lost," said the senior official in the pro-Damascus alliance.
The siege continued unbroken, and proved Assad's most effective weapon in the campaign for Aleppo. Applied steadily over several months, it culminated with the full encirclement of eastern Aleppo this summer.
From then on, rebel fighters faced a daily struggle to find food and fuel for their families, sapping morale.
"WEIGHT" BEHIND PRO-GOVERNMENT FORCES
Hezbollah fighters have been in Syria since the early days of the civil war which grew out of protests against Assad and his government in 2011. Their role in the battle of Qusair in Homs province in 2013 was critical to stopping rebels splitting the Assad-held west in two.
Other Shi'ite militia groups arrived steadily, their level of organization growing under Iranian leadership.
The Iraqi commander described foreign fighters as the "weight" behind the pro-government forces.
"The Iranians manage all the factions, but Hezbollah is independent," he said.
Like other sources interviewed for this story, he declined to be named as he was talking about military affairs which he was not formally allowed to discuss with the media.
Shi'ite militias generally took on the role of holding frontlines after advances led by Hezbollah or the Tiger Force, said Rolf Holmboe, a research fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a former Danish ambassador to Syria, Lebanon and Jordan who has deep knowledge of the battlefield.
Iran sees the Syrian government's survival as vital to its regional interests.
With their support, pro-Assad forces consolidated their positions around Aleppo and in February severed the most direct supply route from Turkey. By June, air and artillery bombardment made what had been the only way into the rebel-held areas, the Castello Road, impassable.
The Tiger Force would finally capture the road in July.
Eastern Aleppo then had a population estimated at 275,000 by the U.N. and some 7,000 rebels. Opposition groups had stockpiled months of food. Yet rebel resistance collapsed more rapidly than expected.
Warplanes unleashed bunker-busting bombs that left craters meters wide and brought down buildings. Hospitals were bombed out of service.
Helicopters also dropped chlorine bombs, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, though the government denied this and other reported atrocities.
Some rebels said cooperation on the battlefield was weakened by a lack of trust between groups in eastern Aleppo. Others said government spies have sewn discord among the rebels.
Above all, rebel officials complain that their main allies -- the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar -- did not offer more military assistance when Russia began air strikes.
Some rebel groups were armed with weapons including guided anti-tank missiles under a military aid program overseen by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. But Washington has ignored their pleas for anti-aircraft systems because of fears that they fall into the hands of more militant groups.
"It's like you are fighting modern warfare with a sword. Bravery can only take you so far," a Syrian opposition figure said. "It's a complete failure of whoever is interested in seeing us win."
(Click here for the graphics story "The fall of Aleppo" here)
(Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad, and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in Beirut, Writing by Tom Perry, Editing by Timothy Heritage)
The following are news stories from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) website (http://www.syriahr.com/en/):
After a month of Aleppo battle… preparations in the western countryside for the reception of the remaining trapped people inside what remained of the eastern Aleppo
Preparations are underway in the western countryside of Aleppo to receive thousands of fighters and their families and those who were planned to arrive at dawn on Wednesday the 14th of December 2016, after the Russian – Turkish deal, which requires the exit of fighters with their families from Salah al-Din neighborhood in Aleppo city, passing by Ramouseh and down to the western countryside of Aleppo.
Where the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights learned that the preparations are underway in Atareb town and other towns in the western countryside of Aleppo for the reception of thousands of fighters and their families and other trapped civilians who wish to get out of an area that is about 5 square kilometers in the southeastern section of the eastern Aleppo, which includes the neighborhoods of al-Mashhad, Ansari, parts of the neighborhoods of al-Sekkary, Seif al-Dawla, Salahuddin, Ameriyah and al-Zebdiyyeh, after shrinking their controlled area, this transfer operation is taking place after a Russian – Turkish agreement which states their exit out the almost three square kilometers area in Aleppo city, and that the operation will start at 5 in the morning Damascus time.
This agreement came after nearly a month of military operations and escalated bombardment on the neighborhoods of Aleppo city, which began on the 15th of November 2016, and continued killing residents and citizens of Aleppo city.
And with the withdrawal of fighters from the areas that remained under their control in the southwest of the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo, Bashar Assad’s regime forces and the gunmen loyal to them have completed the control of the city of Aleppo, where “celebrations” prevail regime forces’ controlled areas in Aleppo city and in other areas in Syria “celebrating the control of Aleppo city”, where gunfire sounds and chanting were heard in the streets of Aleppo city.
14 shells target rebel held areas of Aleppo
14 shells fired by regime forces targeted rebel held areas southwest of eastern Aleppo amid hearing gunshots on the fronts in eastern Aleppo, no reports of injuries. it is worth to mention that SOHR published today that the delay in the Turkish-Russian agreement which allows rebel fighters and their families to leave the rebel held areas in the southern section of eastern Aleppo into the western countryside of Aleppo.
The delay is caused by the regime forces and its allied militiamen, to send a message for Russia saying that the agreement is not totally approved by regime forces, as Russian agreed on the agreement with Turkey without discussing it with regime forces which prefers the military action as first choice
Bombardment targets Daraa and Hama
Areas of Daraa al-Balad were exposed to bombardment by regime forces, no reports of losses. Clashes continued around Zamrin between regime forces and rebels.
Areas of Latamina were exposed to bombardment by regime forces, no reports of losses.
Continued clashes in Raqqa and Homs countrysides
Aerial bombardment targeted Sokhna area in the eastern countryside, no reports of losses. Clashes continued between regime forces and IS around al-Taifor military airport amid mutual bombardment from both sides, leading to damages.
Clashes taking place between IS and SDF around the northern western countryside amid mutual bombardment from both sides amid coalition airstrikes on the area targeting IS locations, As SDF advanced in 17 farmlands after clashes against IS leading to human losses.
The following are news stories from the US Department of Defense website (http://www.defense.gov/News) :
Carter Helps Top Israeli Officials Celebrate Arrival of F-35s
By Cheryl Pellerin DoD News, Defense Media Activity
At Israel’s Nevatim Air Base this evening, Defense Secretary Ash Carter helped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and hundreds of observers celebrate the arrival of two F-35A Lightning II jet fighters the United States sent to one of its most important Middle East allies.
The fighters are the first of 50 aircraft that will help build the future of the Israeli air force, Carter said, as part of a memorandum of understanding signed this year in which the United States pledged an unprecedented $38 billion in security assistance over the next 10 years.
“This evening we’re celebrating the remarkable progress of the U.S.-Israel defense relationship, and also of an [Israeli] air force that began by flying leftover World War II planes and is now flying the most advanced aircraft in history,” the secretary said.
First in the Region
As of today, Carter added, “Israel is our first and only friend in the region that’s flying F-35s. And it’s my honor to be here marking the delivery of these planes … to America’s closest friend and ally in the region.”
Netanyahu thanked Carter for celebrating the “important milestone” with Israeli leaders.
“It's a sign of your personal friendship, your personal commitment to the U.S.-Israel alliance and … I wish to thank as well, on behalf of all the people of Israel, President [Barack] Obama, the American Congress and the American people,” Netanyahu said.
“Israel is your best and your most reliable ally in the Middle East -- in my opinion beyond the Middle East -- we will always remain so,” he added.
The Israelis call the F-35s “Adir,” which in Hebrew means “the mighty one.” Carter called this an “apt name for aircraft that represent the full force of military might.”
Dominating the Skies
From its stealth technology to its fighter capabilities, Carter said, the F-35 is designed to enable pilots to evade detection and fly at supersonic speeds while conducting air defense, ground-attack missions and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
The stealth fighter also features advanced sensors and data collection-capabilities that allow it to share data with other aircraft, the secretary added, noting that the information-sharing features make it an ideal aircraft for joint and coalition operations.
“Together,” Carter said to applause from the audience, “we will dominate the skies.”
He added that Israeli and U.S. companies were important to the creation of the state-of-the-art aircraft.
“From wing production to the helmet-mounted display to fuselage components, Israel’s innovative technologies have helped define this aircraft and its capabilities,” Carter said.
The F-35 is an important symbol of America’s commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge, the secretary added, but “it’s only the most recent example of how our security cooperation continues to soar to new heights.”
The two nations have expanded cooperation into new domains in the last few years, including space and cyberspace, to prepare for 21st-Century threats,” Carter said. “And we’ll continue to provide Israel with the most advanced capabilities.”
“As we gather here today,” Carter said, “the U.S.-Israel defense relationship is stronger than it’s ever been, and America’s pledge to defend Israel’s security remains unwavering. Indeed, with the current turmoil in the region we’re more committed to Israel’s security today than ever before.”
Carter is on an around-the-world trip to thank deployed U.S. troops for their service over the holidays, meet with regional partners, and advance U.S. priorities, including the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region and the lasting defeat of ISIL. The trip has included visits to Japan, India, Afghanistan, Bahrain and Israel.
U.S., Coalition Continue Strikes Against ISIL in Syria, Iraq
SOUTHWEST ASIA, Dec. 14, 2016 —
Strikes in Syria
Bomber and fighter aircraft conducted two strikes near Ayn Isa in Syria, engaging an ISIL tactical unit and damaging six supply routes.
Strikes in Iraq
Attack and fighter aircraft and rocket artillery conducted five strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:
-- Near Huwayjah, a strike destroyed a bridge.
-- Near Mosul, three strikes engaged two ISIL tactical units; destroyed three fighting positions, a supply cache, a bunker, a tunnel, a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher and a mortar system; suppressed two mortar systems and a bunker; and damaged six supply routes.
-- Near Rawah, a strike destroyed an ISIL-held building.
U.S., Coalition Continue Strikes Against ISIL in Syria, Iraq
SOUTHWEST ASIA, Dec. 13, 2016 —
Strikes in Syria
Attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted eight strikes in Syria:
-- Near Ayn Isa, four strikes engaged three ISIL tactical units, destroyed a command and control node and damaged five supply routes.
-- Near Dayr Az Zawr, four strikes destroyed four oil wellheads and three oil tanker trucks.
Strikes in Iraq
Attack and fighter aircraft and rocket artillery conducted seven strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:
-- Near Beiji, a strike destroyed a homemade explosives factory and supply cache.
-- Near Kisik, a strike destroyed two front-end loaders and a vehicle bomb.
-- Near Mosul, five strikes engaged three ISIL tactical units; destroyed four ISIL vehicles, four mortar systems, four ISIL-held buildings, three rocket-propelled grenades, two vehicle bomb facilities, two front-end loaders, a tunnel, a land bridge and a supply cache; damaged 13 supply routes, a tunnel and bridge; and suppressed three ISIL tactical units.
U.S., Coalition Continue Strikes Against ISIL in Syria, Iraq
SOUTHWEST ASIA, Dec. 12, 2016 —
Strikes in Syria
Attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted nine strikes in Syria:
-- Near Abu Kamal, a strike destroyed seven oil tanker trucks and an oil wellhead.
-- Near Raqqa, three strikes engaged an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL chemical weapon facility and an armored vehicle.
-- Near Ayn Isa, four strikes engaged three ISIL tactical units.
-- Near Dayr Az Zawr, a strike destroyed eight oil tanker trucks.
Strikes in Iraq
Rocket artillery and attack, bomber, fighter rotary and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 10 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:
-- Near Beiji, a strike destroyed an ISIL vehicle.
-- Near Haditha, a strike destroyed an ISIL bunker.
-- Near Mosul, five strikes engaged two ISIL tactical units; destroyed five ISIL-held buildings, two vehicle-borne-bomb facilities, three vehicle-borne bombs, six fighting positions, three mortar systems, a heavy machine gun, a weapons cache, two front-end loaders, two tactical vehicles, a tunnel and two pieces of engineering equipment; damaged 15 supply routes; and suppressed an ISIL tactical unit.
-- Near Rawah, a strike destroyed an ISIL dump truck and damaged an artillery system.
-- Near Tal Afar, two strikes engaged an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed a tactical vehicle.
U.S., Coalition Continue Strikes Against ISIL in Syria, Iraq
SOUTHWEST ASIA, Dec. 11, 2016 —
Strikes in Syria
Attack, bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 18 strikes in Syria:
-- Near Abu Kamal, a strike destroyed two oil pumpjacks.
-- Near Shadaddi, two strikes engaged an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed a communications tower and a vehicle.
-- Near Raqqah, a strike destroyed an ISIL-held building.
-- Near Ayn Isa, 10 strikes engaged five ISIL tactical units, destroying an improvised bomb, three fighting positions and a weapons cache. Eight ISIL supply routes were damaged.
-- Near Dayr Az Zawr, three strikes destroyed five oil wellheads, an oil storage tank and an oil tanker truck.
-- Near Palmyra, a strike engaged an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed a vehicle.
Strikes in Iraq
Attack, bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft as well as rocket artillery conducted nine strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:
-- Near Bashir, two strikes engaged an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed a vehicle bomb.
-- Near Beiji, two strikes destroyed a cave entrance, four ISIL fighting positions, two weapons caches and a heavy machine gun.
-- Near Mosul, four strikes engaged two ISIL tactical units, destroying seven front-end loaders, three fighting positions, two ISIL-held buildings, two tractor trailer trucks, a vehicle, a land bridge and three tunnels. Six tunnels were damaged and two bridges were disabled.
-- Near Tal Afar, a strike destroyed an ISIL armored vehicle.
SU.S., Coalition Continue Strikes Against ISIL in Syria, Iraq
SOUTHWEST ASIA, Dec. 10, 2016 —
Strikes in Syria
Attack, bomber, fighter, remotely piloted aircraft as well as rocket artillery conducted 10 strikes in Syria:
-- Near Raqqah, four strikes engaged an ISIL tactical unit and a chemical storage area and destroyed a vehicle bomb decoy, a command-and-control node, a communications node, a weapons storage facility and a fighting position.
-- Near Ayn Isa, three strikes engaged three ISIL tactical units and destroyed five fighting positions and two vehicle bombs.
-- Near Dayr Az Zawr, a strike destroyed an ISIL oil wellhead.
-- Near Manbij, a strike destroyed an ISIL headquarters building.
-- Near Palmyra, a strike destroyed 20 oil tanker trucks.
Strikes in Iraq
Attack, fighter, rotary and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 10 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:
-- Near Mosul, nine strikes engaged four ISIL tactical units, destroying seven ISIL-held buildings, five vehicles, 10 fighting positions, eight front-end loaders, three mortar systems, two weapon caches, an excavator, an armored vehicle and a heavy weapons system. Eleven supply routes and two ISIL compounds were damaged. An ISIL tactical unit was suppressed.
-- Near Tal Afar, a strike engaged an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed a front-end loader, two dump trucks and a tunnel entrance.
Carter: U.S. Will Deploy More Troops to Syria to Combat ISIL
By Shannon Collins DoD News, Defense Media Activity
The United States will deploy approximately 200 additional forces to combat Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant forces in Syria, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said during his speech today at the Manama Dialogue in Bahrain.
The additional U.S. troops, which will include special operations forces, trainers, advisors and explosive ordnance disposal teams, will assist in coalition efforts to eject ISIL from Raqqa, the terrorist group’s self-styled capital in Syria, the secretary said.
“These uniquely skilled operators will join the 300 U.S. special operations forces already in Syria, to continue organizing, training, equipping and otherwise enabling capable, motivated, local forces to take the fight to ISIL, and also bringing down to bear the full weight of U.S. forces around the theater of operations like the funnel of a giant tornado,” Carter said. “This latest commitment of additional forces within Syria is another important step in enabling our partners to deal ISIL a lasting defeat.”
Carter said the Middle East region is home to a strong U.S. military posture comprising more than 58,000 American personnel ashore and afloat -- including more than 5,000 on the ground in Iraq and Syria -- along with air, ground, maritime and ballistic missile defense assets. These forces, he said, are not only countering terrorists like ISIL and al-Qaida; they are deterring aggression and protecting U.S. interests and allies.
The U.S. has reached a critical milestone in the counter-ISIL coalition’s military campaign plan, the secretary said.
“As we meet today in Bahrain, American and coalition forces are engaged in an intense effort to help isolate and collapse ISIL’s control over Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, bringing the great weight of our entire range of capabilities to bear in the enabling of capable and motivated local forces,” he said. “The seizure of these two cities is necessary to ensure the destruction of ISIL’s parent tumor in Iraq and Syria -- the primary objective of our military campaign -- and put ISIL on an irreversible path to a lasting defeat.”
Reaching this point is the result of deliberate actions taken since last year, Carter said. Back in 2015, Carter said h consolidated the war efforts for Iraq and Syria under a single, unified command -- first led by Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, and now by Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend.
Last October, Carter said, he and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford developed, and President Barack Obama approved, the first in a series of recommendations to accelerate the counter-ISIL campaign --
“Since then, President Obama has approved every recommendation for additional forces and capabilities that the chairman and I have taken to him as we saw opportunities to accelerate the campaign -- including just last week,” Carter said.
The overall coalition military campaign plan devised last year had and continues to have three objectives, Carter said. The first, he said, is to destroy the ISIL cancer’s parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, “because the sooner we crush both the fact and the idea of an Islamic state based on ISIL’s barbaric ideology, the safer we’ll all be.”
The second objective, he continued, is to combat ISIL’s metastases everywhere they emerge around the world: in Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere. The third objective, he said, is to work with U.S. intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement partners to help protect the U.S. homeland and its people from attack.
“The strategic approach of our military campaign in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere is to leverage all the tools at our disposal to enable capable, motivated, local forces to deal ISIL a lasting defeat,” Carter said. “IT was necessary to recommend this strategic approach because the only way to ensure that once defeated ISIL stays defeated is to enable local forces to seize and hold territory rather than substitute for them. Consistent with this approach, we have employed some of the U.S. military’s and our coalition partners’ most unique and exquisite capabilities, and some of our most specialized personnel -- from air power and special operations forces, to train, advise, assist capabilities on the ground, to logistics and mobility, to intelligence and cyber tools.”
Carter added, “These assets have been able to not only help directly enable local forces on the ground; they can also bring to bear the full weight of American and coalition military might.”
By combining U.S. capabilities with local partners, they have been squeezing ISIL with simultaneous pressure from all sides and across domains through a series of deliberate actions to continue to build momentum, the secretary said.
“For example, when U.S. and coalition special operators conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders, it creates a virtuous cycle of better intelligence,” he said. “This, in turn, generates more targets, more raids, more airstrikes and more opportunities that can be seized to generate even more momentum.”
Carter said countries from across the counter-ISIL coalition, including some in the region, are contributing to these military efforts. Many in the Middle East host coalition forces, enabling the U.S. to bring to bear force more efficiently, he said.
“Some are contributing on the ground or have contributed in the air campaign. And countries closest to the fight are making a key difference -- including Jordan and Turkey,” Carter said. “Turkey, for example, hosts coalition strike aircraft at Incirlik, as well as a High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, at Gazientep. And Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield is helping to seal the Turkish-Syrian border so that ISIL can no longer exploit it.”
He added, “As a result of all of this, since last year -- play by play, accelerant on top of accelerant, town after town, from every direction and in every domain -- the campaign has delivered significant results.”
In Iraq, U.S. and coalition forces have been helping the Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga forces to systematically dislodge ISIL from city after city, such as Ramadi, Hit, Rutbah, Fallujah, Mahkmur and Qayyarah, Carter said. With the help of the U.S., the coalition is now taking back the neighborhoods in eastern Mosul and moving west, he said.
“This is a complex mission that will take time to accomplish, but I am confident that ISIL’s days in Mosul are numbered,” the secretary said.
Carter said the U.S. and local partners put an end to ISIL’s expansion in Syria, and began to systematically roll it back toward Raqqa. That, he said, is “an important objective, since it is the so-called capital of the so-called caliphate, and a hub for plotters of external attacks.”
The secretary added, “After helping capable, motivated, local Syrian partners defend Kobani, we enabled them and other local forces to retake Shaddadi, the Tishrin Dam, Manbij, Jarabulus and Dabiq -- not only denying ISIL control over those areas, but also cutting off some of its primary lines of communication into Iraq and Turkey.”
The U.S. is now helping tens of thousands of local Syrian forces isolate Raqqa, from which they’re now only 15 miles away, Carter said. The U.S. is helping them generate the additional local forces necessary to seize and hold the city of Raqqa, he said.
In addition to taking back territory, the campaign is yielding results in denying ISIL the finances, supplies, freedom of movement, and command and control it needs to survive, the secretary said.
“As a coalition, we’ve systematically targeted ISIL-controlled oil wells, trucks for smuggling the oil -- including, just on Thursday, 168 trucks in a single strike, the largest airstrike of this kind to date -- and we’ve also targeted revenue repositories as well. We’ve deliberately focused on severing the territory ISIL controls in Syria from the territory it controls in Iraq,” Carter said. “Leaders of the terrorist group can no longer travel between Raqqa and Mosul without the risk of either being struck from the air or hunted down by the coalition’s Expeditionary Targeting Force. In fact, since we began accelerating our campaign last year, we’ve killed the majority of ISIL’s most-senior leaders.”
Carter said while these results in Iraq and Syria are encouraging, the coalition must stay focused on the continued execution of the plan.
“The inevitable collapse of ISIL’s control over Mosul and Raqqa will certainly put ISIL on a path to a lasting defeat, but there will still be much more to do after that to make sure that, once defeated, ISIL stays defeated,” he said.
Meeting With Bahrain’s King
Also today in Manama, the secretary met with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of the Kingdom of Bahrain, according to a DoD news release.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Army Gen. Joseph Votel, U.S. Central Command commander, meet with Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in Manama, Bahrain, Dec. 10, 2016. DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley SD meets with Bahrainian king Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Army Gen. Joseph Votel, U.S. Central Command commander, meet with Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in Manama, Bahrain, Dec. 10, 2016. DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley Download Image Image details page
The two leaders discussed the strength of the U.S.-Bahraini defense relationship, the enduring nature of the U.S. presence in Bahrain, and the steadfast U.S. commitment to regional security, the release said.
During the meeting, Carter noted his appreciation for Bahrain's continued support for U.S. personnel and especially for the long-standing support for U.S. Naval Support Activity – Bahrain, according to the release.
Carter also briefed Bahrain’s king on the counter-ISIL coalition's progress toward Mosul and Raqqa, the release said. The secretary pointed out that Bahrain's support of the coalition was a critical component of the campaign's successes.
Carter and Bahrain’s king also agreed on the need to focus not only on battlefield victories, but also on winning the peace by focusing on reconstruction, stabilization, and reconciliation after ISIL is driven from Iraq and Syria, the release said.
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