WASHINGTON – U.S.-backed forces claim they have routed ISIS from its last remaining urban area in eastern Syria the terrorists had held and now are shifting to mop-up operations, observers are saying.
According to reports offered by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ground troops of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) completed its take over of Al Baghouz, the last major town under ISIS control east of the Euphrates River.
If the reports hold firm, it would mean the end to “Operation Roundup,” the offensive launched last April to roust ISIS from the array of towns and cities it held east of the Euphrates River. That is the area of operation for the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition.
Phase one of Operation Roundup consisted of general offensive actions against ISIS, while phase two focused on the liberation of Dashisha, which was completed in mid-July.
Phase three, designed to be the final offensive, focused on retaking Hajin, Syria, along the Euphrates River, and Abu Kemal, on the border with Iraq, along with surrounding areas, as the pivot points to roust ISIS from urban enclaves.
Ground elements of the SDF, a coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters, have systematically captured villages where ISIS has been cornered including Hajin, Al Shaafa and Sousa, Pentagon officials have said.
Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve in Baghdad, would not confirm nor deny the report from the human rights group. Instead, he provided TMN a statement from SDF Commander Mazloum Kobani given to the media on Thursday.
“Military operations against the Islamic State group in Syria are wrapping up and the last pockets of the jihadists’ self-proclaimed ‘caliphate’ will be flushed out within a month,” Kobani said Thursday, according to Ryan. “The operation of our forces against (ISIS) in its last pocket has reached its end and ISIS fighters are now surrounded in one area.”
He said the SDF will need a month to eliminate remaining ISIS remnants. “I believe that during the next month we will officially announce the end of the military presence on the ground of the so-called caliphate,” Kobanj said, according to Ryan.