U.S. Military Spokesman: ISIS Still Poses a Threat in Iraq

By Susan Jones | October 17, 2018 | 10:50 AM EDT

A view of the battlefield in Northern Iraq. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images,)

(CNSNews.com) - Iraqi and Syrian fighters, with support from the U.S.-led coalition, continue to stamp out pockets of ISIS resistance in the desert and in cities where some of the terrorists are still dug in.

"Overall, ISIS is territorially defeated, and until we achieve an enduring defeat, we will continue the fight," Army Col. Sean Ryan, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, told a news conference on Tuesday.

In Iraq, he said, "The ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) are working to contain and eliminate ISIS, who still pose a threat."

According to Ryan, in recent days:

-- The ISF and Kurdish fighters arrested ten members of an ISIS financial network based in Iraq;

-- The ISF found and destroyed more than 100 explosives and IEDS and the places where they were built and stored in the Anbar Desert;

-- The ISF conducted a clearance operation in Ramadi (which the Iraqis declared "liberated" in late 2015), capturing 28 suspected ISIS fighters and discovering over a thousand IEDs.

-- In Kirkuk, Iraqi forces are "responding quickly" to "small pockets of ISIS" that are targeting water supplies, power lines and cell towers to undermine the legitimacy of the government of Iraq.

In Syria:

-- Syrian Democratic Forces continue to clear the "last strongholds" of ISIS resistance in the Middle Euphrates River Valley (MERV), which he described as the last refuge of foreign fighters who have nowhere else to go. He described the fighting there as "intense."

"The SDF is making gains despite booby-trapped buildings, IEDs and repeated attacks, as they continue to degrade ISIS capabilities in the MERV," Ryan said. "ISIS, however, remains a deadly adversary. The remaining fighters in the MERV are hardened combatants and have shown every indication of being willing to fight until the end."

Ryan said ISIS is using tunnels to hide underground in the desert, making the clearing operations slower than what happened in Iraqi cities and towns.

A reporter asked Ryan what's taking so long to eliminate ISIS, since the enemy controls only about 2 percent of its original caliphate and is primarily holed up in the Middle Euphrates River Valley:

"We've still got about three months to go, and a lot can happen in 2018," Ryan said. "But it's more about the capabilities. It's not about the land mass, it's about taking away ISIS capabilities.

"And in the top, I mentioned the -- the financial part. And that's a big part, but it's also from the military side, we're degrading them every day. It's not just killing ISIS fighters, it's taking away their weapons systems, taking away their logistical support and things of that nature. So that's happening every day."

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