The SDF have cleared several neighborhoods in the southwest part of Raqqa and continue to clear important infrastructure in the east, such as buildings, tunnel systems and landmarks, he said.
“The Naim traffic circle, once an ISIS symbol of fear and terror where they held public executions, is now a fading propaganda setting much like ISIS’s hollow caliphate,” the colonel said. “The liberation of these sites, both symbolically and tangibly, destroys ISIS’s legitimacy as a so-called state, while increasing the morale of our partner forces and the civilians of Raqqa.”
While the SDF make steady progress, the improvised explosive device threat in Raqqa remains the most-challenging obstacle, Dillon said.
“Our partners work tirelessly to clear these explosives deep in the city's center where ISIS has had years to prepare for this battle. SDF fighters describe this struggle ‘as much a fight against IEDs as it is against ISIS’ with the sheer quantity of improvised explosive devices far exceeding anything the SDF had seen previously,” he emphasized.
Meanwhile, the SDF is conducting clearing operations against ISIS in the Khabur River Valley, northeast of Dayr Az Zawr, Dillon said, noting that the forces met with light ISIS resistance while clearing nearly 400 square kilometers -- more than 150 square miles -- of territory.
“The start of the SDF's offensive to uproot ISIS north of Dayr Az Zawr proves once again that once our multiethnic partner force liberates territory from ISIS, it effectively holds it with indigenous forces and provides the necessary security to enable representative civilian councils to stabilize the territory,” Dillon said. “They will continue to defeat ISIS while protecting the people in the region -- freeing them from ISIS brutality.”
Across Syria, about 1.5 million people are free of ISIS control and 42,000 square kilometers -- more than 16,200 square miles -- have been cleared, in the ongoing fight against ISIS, he said.
“We still expect tough fighting ahead, but with our partners’ battlefield successes, increased capacity, and continued support from a 73-member coalition, we will keep the pressure on until ISIS is defeated,” Dillon said.
(Source: US Dept of Defense)