The Arab region is in a much better place in reference to ISIS than where it was three years ago, Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesperson for Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, US Central Command, Baghdad, Iraq, has said.
Speaking at a teleconference participated by Gulf Times on Wednesday, the US Army official stressed that the recapturing of Raqqa in Syria and the clearing of Mosul in Iraq more than halfway have significantly weakened the enemy.
“As we talked about security in the region, these are locations from where ISIS had planned, had resourced, and had executed attacks around the world, so not just in Iraq and Syria, but throughout Europe, in Iran, and elsewhere throughout the world,” Colonel Dillon noted.
The Combined Joint Task Force was formed by a US-led global coalition composed of 73 members, 69 countries and four international organisations, to fight and defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Colonel Dillon said military operations against the enemy had also successfully stopped the recruitment and training of foreign fighters, who came to Mosul and Raqqa with around 1,500 in numbers every month in the previous years.
“That is almost nonexistent anymore and it goes to show through so many different ways, how ISIS has just been devastated and no longer has the draw that they once did,” he added.
Colonel Dillon said reports that some 30 or more ISIS fighters in Raqqa, who were asked why they surrendered, disclosed that the “caliphate’s promise to them was completely false.”
“Living under ISIS and living in the ‘caliphate’ is not blissful. In fact, if you join ISIS, you will be pursued and hunted down by the Coalition, and you will be killed,” he said.
The US Army official said ISIS’ ability to resource, plan, and conduct external operations is at an all-time low and “we will continue to pursue them until they are completely defeated.”
He added that they will also continue to work with their partners especially in training and preparing the Iraqi Security Forces for wide-area security.
“ISIS has been militarily defeated, we can keep them gone through the training, and through continued share of intelligence and information,” Colonel Dillon pointed out.
“There’s still a lot of hard fighting to do, but those ultimate and future decisions after the military defeat of ISIS will be determined by governments and at the diplomatic level,” he added.
About containing ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria, Colonel Dillon explained that they normally isolate these areas prior to conducting an offensive, tightening the noose around these locations to prevent enemies from fleeing.
He said some attempt to flee by mixing in with the locals but security forces conduct screening operations at various sites, ensuring that people are not part of ISIS as they move to IDP (internally displaced people) camps.
According to Colonel Dillon, the Coalition of 73 global partners are all tied in together, sharing information to prevent the ability of ISIS fighters from continuing to travel throughout the world.
To stop the financing of terrorist activities, he said they also destroyed many cash and wire transfer locations.
“We have struck many of these throughout Iraq and Syria, through the middle Euphrates River valley, in Mayadin, in large bulk cash storage sites; we’ve completely destroyed them with strikes,” the US Army official said.
“ISIS’ ability to finance, plan and export their terror activities from Iraq and Syria is very much degraded, if not completely destroyed because of the pressure that is being put on by the Coalition,” he stressed.