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U.S.-Backed Forces Announce Offensive against Last ISIS Strongholds

Fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces in Deir al-Zor, Syria, May 1, 2018. (Rodi Said/Reuters)

U.S.-backed local forces on Tuesday announced a new offensive intended to drive the Islamic State (ISIS) from its last strongholds in northeast Syria.

The mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), aided by the U.S., will attack ISIS in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.

“We continue to stand alongside our partners and ensure the liberation of all terrain held by ISIS terrorists,” read a statement from Major General James Jarrard, commander of the Special Operations Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve. “This is a key milestone in bringing lasting stability to both Iraq and Syria.”

The SDF last October dealt a devastating blow to ISIS, driving the terror group from Raqqa, its self-proclaimed capital.

“The days of ISIS controlling territory and terrorizing the people of Syria are coming to an end,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert in a statement. “The fighting will be difficult, but we and our partners will prevail.”

Much of the Kurdish contingent of the U.S.-backed local forces left last year to help their fellow Kurds, who came under attack from Turkish forces. Turkey finally seized the area, though, and Kurdish fighters have started returning to fight the small cadre of ISIS fighters left near the border between Syria and Iraq.

“Over the coming weeks, our heroic forces will liberate these areas, secure the Iraq-Syria border, and end the presence of ISIS in eastern Syria once and for all,” the SDF said in a statement on Tuesday.

“They are in their last strongholds now, and these contain a big number of jihadis. We know there will be a higher number of suicide attacks, of car bombs, and of the explosives that they have planted,” said Kino Gabriel, a spokesman for SDF.

President Trump has made clear that he wants to pull U.S. troops out of Syria as soon as it is stable enough to do so.

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