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US Military Says It Can't Take Out Remaining ISIS Fighters Because They're Hiding In Tunnels
As 2018 draws to a close, it is unclear if U.S. troops and their Arab-Kurdish allies have made a dent in ISIS’ last stronghold in Syria.
A spokesman for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Syria estimated in December 2017 that fewer than 3,000 ISIS fighters remained in both countries. Since then, defense officials have said consistently that roughly 2,000 ISIS fighters are trapped in Syria’s Middle Euphrates River Valley.
Army Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, repeated the 2,000 figure when briefing reporters on Tuesday. However, it is difficult to determine exactly how many ISIS fighters remain in their last enclave in Syria because they are dug in deeply and the terrain is difficult for combat operations, he said.
"The numbers game is difficult to count because ISIS is underground – they’re in tunnels; they’re hiding," Ryan said. "So it’s not like we watch them walk into to a building and we’re counting as they go in. They’re spread apart."
When asked about why the numbers had not changed, Ryan told Task & Purpose in an email there could be a variety of factors: “In October, Gen. Dunford stated new followers were arriving, mostly over the Turkish border, at a rate of about 100 a month."
“The early estimates from December probably did not take into account the elaborate industrial strength tunnels where many ISIS were hiding in the MERV and the size of the area. The 3,000 may have been conservative and currently, we believe it is around 1,500-2,000, and more difficult to reinforce now with stricter border security throughout the region.”
Ryan didn’t mention that the Syrian Democratic Forces were on the verge of crushing ISIS in Syria when the Turks invaded and occupied the Syrian Kurdish town of Afrin in January, bringing the offensive to a halt. Although combat operations against ISIS were later renewed, the momentum had been lost.
Still, the U.S. military and SDF have made progress in cutting off ISIS’ logistics and money flow and containing the remaining fighters to the Middle Euphrates River Valley, Ryan said at Tuesday’s briefing.
Right now, ISIS now holds less than 1 percent of its original geographic caliphate, which once stretched across Syria and Iraq, Ryan said. By way of comparison, U.S. military officials estimated at the start of the year that ISIS still held about 2 percent if its former territory.
Ryan acknowledged that ISIS had recently caught the Syrian Democratic Forces off-guard in a surprise attack, which reportedly began late last week. About 80 SDF fighters have been killed in the fighting, but the U.S. allies have managed to regain all the territory that was lost.
“It’s a very difficult fight,” Ryan said at the briefing. “This is definitely not Mayberry. People are dying. For the ISIS side, it’s fight to the end. Basically, they came up with a counter-attack in poor weather conditions.
“Anyone can have a good day any given Sunday and they had theirs. Sometimes war is give and take. You’re going to have good days and bad days. The enemy just happened to have one good day and then the SDF beat them right back.”
More than 7,500 boots on display at Fort Bragg this month served as a temporary memorial to service members from all branches who have died since 9/11.
The boots — which had the service members' photos and dates of death — were on display for Fort Bragg's Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation's annual Run, Honor and Remember 5k on May 18 and for the 82nd Airborne Division's run that kicked off All American Week.
"It shows the families the service members are still remembered, honored and not forgotten," said Charlotte Watson, program manager of Fort Bragg's Survivor Outreach Services.
After more than a decade of research and development and upwards of $500 million in funding, the Navy finally plans on testing its much-hyped electromagnetic railgun on a surface warship in a major milestone for the beleaguered weapons system, Navy documents reveal.
The Navy's latest Northwest Training and Testing draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Assessment (NWTT EIS/OEIS), first detailed by the Seattle Times on Friday, reveals that " the kinetic energy weapon (commonly referred to as the rail gun) will be tested aboard surface vessels, firing explosive and non-explosive projectiles at air- or sea-based targets."
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Congress fell short ahead of Memorial Day weekend, failing to pass legislation that would provide tax relief for the families of military personnel killed during their service.
Senators unanimously approved a version of the bipartisan Gold Star Family Tax Relief Act Tuesday sending it back to the House of Representatives, where it was tied to a retirement savings bill as an amendment, and passed Thursday.
When it got back to the Senate, the larger piece of legislation failed to pass and make its way to the President Trump's desk.
An NSA cyber weapon is reportedly being used against American cities by the very adversaries it was meant to target
In less than three years after the National Security Agency found itself subject to an unprecedentedly catastrophic hacking episode, one of the agency's most powerful cyber weapons is reportedly being turned against American cities with alarming frequency by the very foreign hackers it was once intended to counter.
The spectacle of hundreds of thousands of motorcycles roaring their way through the streets of Washington, D.C., to Memorial Day events as part of the annual Rolling Thunder veterans tribute will be a thing of the past after this coming weekend.
Former Army Sgt. Artie Muller, a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran and co-founder of Rolling Thunder, said the logistics and costs of staging the event for Memorial Day, which falls on May 27 this year, were getting too out of hand to continue. The ride had become a tradition in D.C. since the first in 1988.
"It's just a lot of money," said the plainspoken Muller, who laced an interview with a few epithets of regret over having to shut down Rolling Thunder.