As Iraqi forces advance on ISIS’ last urban stronghold in the country, the US-led coalition continues to strike the terrorist group in Syria to support its various allies in the fight there.
In a Feb. 17 strike, seen below in footage provided by the US Defense Department, coalition aircraft struck an ISIS-held building near Al Bab, a town in northwest Syria.
The strike was one of 15 in Syria that day, but it was the only one near Al Bab. According to an Operation Inherent Resolve release issued the next day, the strike near the city targeted an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed a fighting position.
Days later, on Feb. 23, Turkish-backed forces retook the town from ISIS fighters after a long and bloody fight that led to the deaths of dozens of fighters and hundreds of civilians, requiring Turkey to triple the size of its original detachment.
The Turkish victory in Al Bab is likely to further strain US-Turkey cooperation in Syria, according to The Washington Post. The US had, at first, backed a Kurdish-led force to retake the town, which sits 15 miles south of the Syria-Turkey border. The government in Ankara views those Kurdish fighters as terrorists.
Turkey’s advance on Al Bab is also intended to prevent Kurds in Syria from linking the territories they hold east and west of the town and creating an autonomous zone in northern Syria.
Turkey’s grip on Al Bab and the area around it may be tenuous, however. An ISIS suicide attack nearby on Friday killed 29 people, leaving a large number wounded and destroying two rebel command posts.
Efforts to reach a peaceful end of the fighting in Syria have been bogged down for some time.
Amid the ongoing killing in Syria itself, a UN envoy at talks in Geneva issued orders banning mobile phones, recording devices, and “offensive language” to government and opposition negotiators in an effort to ease the fractious environment at peace talks.
Al Qaeda’s former Syria branch, Fateh al-Sham, claimed on Friday that suicide bombings in Homs over the weekend were a message to opposition representatives in Geneva to “step aside.”
- REUTERS/Sergei Chirikov
Fateh al-Sham has been excluded from the opposition committee in Switzerland and said the bombings in Homs were “just one episode in a series that will follow.”
Russia, a stalwart ally of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, has also thwarted resolutions against the Syrian government at the UN.
Vladimir Putin said a draft resolution issued by Western powers meant to sanction Syrian government leaders over their alleged use of chemical weapons was “inappropriate” and that Russia would not support it.
US military officials have stressed that any new US initiative against the terrorist group and others like it would not be solely a military one.
“This is a political-military plan,” Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Thursday. “It is not a military plan.”