Terrorist Leader's Death Disrupts Group's Expansion Efforts, DoD Spokesman Says
By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, July 17, 2017 – The recent death of a terrorist leader in Afghanistan will further disrupt his group's plans to expand its operations in Afghanistan, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters today.
The death of Abu Sayed, emir of an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria affiliate known as ISIS-Khorasan, was reported July 14. The U.S. strike that killed him also killed other ISIS-K members and marked the third time in the past year U.S. forces in Afghanistan have killed a sitting leader of ISIS-K, Davis said.
"ISIS threatens America in the west because of its commitment to plot, direct and inspire terrorist attacks and its ability to recruit, move and finance the terrorists who commit these attacks," he said. "The terrorists have been very clear in their propaganda. … They want to recruit and attack globally."
ISIS-K members in Afghanistan number in the hundreds, Davis said, noting that the group doesn't hold any meaningful territory in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province.
"There are certainly fighters there, but they are mostly spending their time trying to stay alive," he said. "The Afghan forces partnered with the U.S. forces are keeping constant pressure on them. We assess that they are most active in Nangarhar, Kunar and Nuristan [provinces]. We've been putting pressure on them as they try to gain footholds elsewhere."
Taliban Driven From Nawa
In Helmand province, Afghan forces, advised by U.S. Marines with Task Force Southwest, retook the Nawa district center from the Taliban today, Davis said, supported by F-16 fighter jets and AH-64 Apache helicopters conducting airstrikes in support of the operation.
"Nawa plays a large role in the security of Lashkar Gah, because it is one of the larger towns that is just south of Lashkar Gah," Davis said. As part of an expeditionary advising package, he told reporters, Marines with Task Force Southwest are advising Afghan forces to improve command and control, battle tracking, intelligence, maneuver, fires integration, and leadership evaluation and development.
Afghan forces plan to set up security checkpoints throughout the district center and on the route to Lashkar Gah to ensure security, stability and quality of life to the people of Helmand province, Davis said.
ISIS in Iraq
Turning to ISIS in Iraq, Davis said the Iraqi security forces announced that coalition forces continue to support them as they carry out detailed clearance operations in Mosul and prepare for follow-on operations in Tal Afar.
Although Iraqi forces now control all parts of Mosul, he said, detailed clearance operations of rubble caves and tunnel systems are still being conducted in the Old City to look for any ISIS fighters in hiding and identify explosive devices that could threaten friendly forces or civilians, he said.
The Iraqi army, emergency response division, counterterrorism service and federal police forces will hold their sectors of Mosul until the hold force takes over security of the area, Davis said. To the west of Mosul, the 15th Iraqi Army Division maintained defensive positions in its offensive toward Kissick Junction and Tal Afar, he added.
ISIS in Syria
Yesterday in Raqqa, Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces liberated about 2 square kilometers of terrain – about three-quarters of a square mile – within Raqqa as they fought along three axes against stiff resistance and significant improvised-explosive-device belts, Davis said.
On the western axis, he added, the SDF cleared nearly 2 square kilometers on the western edge of the city, isolated and secured a high-rise complex, and improved their defensive positions, despite sniper fire and extensive IED belts.
On the eastern axis, the SDF advanced west along the southern edge of the city, repelled ISIS counterattacks, and initiated offensive operations along four avenues of assault, Davis said.
On the southern axis, south of the Euphrates River, the SDF improved their defensive positions along the forward line of troops, he said.
The east-west de-confliction line south of the Euphrates is holding as regime forces remain south and SDF forces remain north of the agreed-upon line, Davis added.
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