Islamic State occupied territory near Makhmour, a region that shares a border with Iraq and Kurdistan, was cleared out earlier this week by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Kurdish Peshmerga working unilaterally with coalition air support. Operation Inherent Resolve coalition spokesperson Colonel Sean Ryan expressed great delight at the achievement, given the circumstances. The cooperation between the two militaries is a refreshing occurrence given their recent and past histories.
Colonel Ryan spoke to press later stating that, “They did very well. Their job is the root out ISIS in the area and deny them safe havens. According to commander [Masrour] Barzani they did very well, hit 30 different areas along with Iraqi airstrikes, destroyed five different tunnels. So they’re working very well together. The mountainous terrain was very difficult – very hilly with snipers in there, and destroying caves, but together they performed very well, and hopefully, they will get rid of all the ISIS in that area.”
The mission to retake the area began early Monday morning and ended with thirty square kilometers being cleared. A total of 14 Islamic State fighters were killed, and the number of friendly casualties was not reported. Colonel Ryan went on to say that, “We are still seeing pockets of ISIS in that area. And the Peshmerga are outstanding fighters, so any time you can join forces, the more, the better, because the overall goal for everyone here in Iraq should be to destroy ISIS at any cost. So we’re hoping to see more Peshmerga force action, because like I mentioned before, I’ve seen them in action, and I think they’re amazing soldiers.”
When questioned on the current situation combating and pursuing the Islamic State at this stage in the conflict, Colonel Ryan said, “What we’re worried about is these small pockets. They are in the Kirkuk area where we’re seeing as well as the Syria area as well, over the Euphrates River Valley, we are seeing some of these fighters that have left the battles, previous battles, go into other areas, and they are very small pockets. But as you see from the kidnappings, they can be pretty lethal. But I do believe in the Iraqi security forces and the Peshmerga forces will rid ISIS from these areas and they have begun the conditions for setting the stage for destroying them.”
Reporters question whether the coalition was any closer to capturing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Colonel Ryan told them that, “We hear the same rumors that you probably do, but I don’t believe that one individual is that important or worth spending all that time and effort looking for him. I believe we will find him in time. But destroying ISIS at large is really our main goal. It’s to have no ISIS remnants left on the battlefield and in the towns and cities of both Iraq and Syria.” He added that the coalition and its allies are focusing on destroying the Islamic State’s logistics, finances, and final strongholds, “Once that happens it will be very difficult for ISIS to pose any threat.”
Featured image courtesy of the author.