Iraqi forces, backed by coalition strikes, are making "slow but steady" progress in the tough fight to take back Fallujah, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve said today.
Iraqi security forces continue to "tighten the encirclement" around Fallujah in the effort to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, said Army Col. Christopher Garver, who spoke to Pentagon reporters via teleconference from Baghdad.
"In Fallujah, we continue to see slow, but steady, progress on different axes around the city," he said.
Brigades of two Iraqi divisions are clearing Fallujah suburbs to the north, while one of those divisions is also clearing neighborhoods to the southeast, Garver said. Meanwhile, he added, Iraqi units and Anbar tribal fighters are clearing toward the north and toward the east, heading to the city.
'Foothold' in Fallujah
Iraqi counterterrorism service members, commandos and federal police units are inside the southern edge of Fallujah, Garver said. "They have a foothold in the southern corner or the southern edge of the city," he told reporters. "But it's been a significant fight to grab that foothold, and so they're continuing to try to expand."
Fighting remains intense in Fallujah, especially on the southern side, he said.
Coalition strikes continue to attack ISIL targets inside the city, Garver said. In the last seven days, he added, there have been 19 coalition strikes inside the city.
"We have hit tactical units and fighters, heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade teams, mortar systems, recoilless rifles, air artillery pieces, and [ISIL] vehicles," the colonel said.
In addition to the coalition strikes, the Iraqi air force continues to attack targets in support of the Iraqi ground forces, Garver explained.
"The fighting also remains slow and careful because of the civilian situation inside the city," he said. "We've seen reporting that approximately 40,000 civilians from the greater Fallujah area have been evacuated."
Progress Elsewhere in Iraq
Iraqi units continue to clear pockets of ISIL fighters on the north side of the Euphrates River while securing areas that have already been cleared, Garver said.
From Hiit to Juba, units from three Iraqi army divisions and members of the counterterrorism forces have "repelled multiple local disrupting attacks and made steady progress clearing [ISIL] influence," he said.
Focusing on Fallujah and Mosul, Iraqi forces continue the "slow, difficult, dangerous work of clearing IEDs and booby-traps, fighting off localized attacks, and engaging pockets of [ISIL] fighters where they find them," the colonel said.
Closing in on Syrian Town of Manbij
In Syria, the Syrian-Arab coalition and allied forces have encircled the city of Manbij and are cutting off lines of communication to the area, Garver said.
Those forces have seized control of the outer roads to prevent any ISIL resupply or reinforcement, Garver said, noting that Manbij, with roads running north-south and east-west, is a "crossroads" for ISIL communications.
"The fighting for Manbij has continued to be significant and, at times, heavy," he said, adding there are reports of ISIL holding large groups of civilian hostages and forcing hostages to fight.
In the last seven days, the coalition has conducted 73 strikes in support of the effort to take back Manbij, Garver said.
"Coalition strikes have also destroyed three [ISIL] command-and-control nodes, which we assess as degrading [ISIL] enough to cause the fighters to fall back into the city," he said.
(Source: US Dept of Defense)