By Prudence Arobani
Lt.-Gen. Stephen Townsend, the Commander of the coalition forces confronting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), says the terrorist group is the most evil entity in the world.
“There is evil in the world, and good people of all faiths and nations have joined together and made progress against the evil that is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“ISIS is the most evil entity I have encountered in my lifetime,” the commander said on Thursday in a statement issued by the U.S. Department of Defence.
“In 2014, ISIS swept across Syria and Iraq and declared it as the heart of the new caliphate, with a capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa. They did not hide their atrocities,” the general said.
“They tortured, beheaded and burned those that did not agree with them.
“ They posted the evidence of their evil for the world to see on social media. They enslaved millions under their twisted ideology,’’ he said.
He said Iraqi security forces were at first overmatched and were backed up to Baghdad and Kurdistan, adding that Iraq asked for help and a coalition led by the U.S. formed against ISIS.
According to him, the coalition forces helped train and equip Iraqi security forces and they provided the air support needed to keep ISIS from making any further gains.
“To date, more than 110,000 Iraqi security forces have been trained and equipped by the coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq,” Townsend said.
He lauded the forces for liberating Tikrit, Ramadi, Fallujah, Qayyarah, Sharkot and countless smaller villages in 2015, adding that the nine-month-long liberation battle for Mosul “was a brutal urban fight” as well as Thursday’s victory over ISIS in Tal Afar.
“The coalition of more than 60 nations was there every step of the way to provide that support. But make no mistake about it – this is an Iraqi plan. This is Iraqis liberating Iraqis,” Townsend said.
In Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces have gone from almost being pushed out of the country to pushing into Raqqa, the general said.
“The fighting is difficult, but they have made much progress and I have no doubt they will succeed. You have to remember that the Syrian Democratic Forces are not the Iraqi security forces.
“They do not have tanks, helicopters or fighter jets. They are really an irregular light infantry force with a comparative handful of light armoured vehicles and heavy weapons who, with coalition assistance, are fighting well above their weight class.
“They have been and remain the most effective counter-ISIS fighting force in Syria,” he said, adding that “ our partners in Iraq and Syria, with coalition help, have made substantial accomplishments in the fight to defeat ISIS.’’
“Together, we have liberated approximately 75,000 square kilometres of ISIS-held terrain, and, more importantly, 5.5 million citizens had been liberated from ISIS captivity.
“The coalition is strong, united, and we remain committed to our partners to bring a lasting defeat to ISIS in Iraq and Syria to prevent ISIS from exporting their terror around the world, and to protect our own homelands,” he further said.