Pentagon officials have been happy to point to the recent victory over the Islamic State in the Syrian city of Manbij as a success story, yet it appears the fighting their is far from over.
Operation Inherent Resolve reported Tuesday that it had engaged in three separate strikes on ISIS fighters Monday, just one days after Syrian rebels claimed to have retaken the city. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter congratulated the rebels on their victory in a statement Monday, calling it a “significant milestone in the campaign to deal ISIL (ISIS) a lasting defeat.”
Army Col. Chris Garver noted in a press briefing Tuesday that ISIS fighters fleeing Manbij left behind several explosive traps, while some units would still need to be rooted out of some areas of the city. The positions the U.S. struck included three ISIS “tactical units,” six fighting positions and an entire mortar team, making up a substantially more sophisticated force than a few leftover insurgents.
Manbij is not the first time officials have prematurely claimed victory over the so-called caliphate. Coalition forces continued to fight ISIS militants in Ramadi weeks after it was supposedly retaken in December 2015. Some reports alleged that Iraqi Prime Minister Hader al-Abadi’s helicopter came under small arms fire on his way to declaring victory in the city.
As it has lost ground, ISIS has increasingly reverted back to its terrorist roots by engaging in large scale attacks on supposedly secure civilian areas and harassing the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) with guerilla tactics. The terrorist group’s ability to pose a threat in both an unconventional and conventional manner has forced ISF to spread itself thin in some areas, while the elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) has been forced to engage in conventional fights, as opposed to its traditional counter-insurgency operations.
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