After suffering humiliating defeats to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and the U.S.-led Operation Inherent Resolve coalition, 149 Islamic State fighters were recently captured attempting to hide among women and children fleeing the Euphrates River valley.
As part of Operation Desert Lynx, Iraq’s mission to recapture territory near the Euphrates River valley from ISIS, U.S. and coalition forces dropped thousands of leaflets on cities and towns in order to demoralize ISIS fighters and give civilians an opportunity to evacuate the area before fighting occurs. Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters that as many as 35,000 civilians have been able to flee the area in response.
“The ISF detained 149 ISIL [ISIS] fighters who were attempting to blend in among the fleeing civilians,” said Warren during a Wednesday press conference at the Pentagon. “These cowards are now in ISF custody and will be prosecuted by the Iraqi government.”
The pamphlets gave civilians instructions on where to they could seek safety and read “CTS Lions are close,” an apparent reference to Iraq’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service. Warren said the intention for the leaflet air drop was to both aid the civilian population as well as to degrade the morale of ISIS fighters.
“As we see ISIL morale begin to crack, as we see ISIL begin to take increased losses, as some of our messages begin to penetrate, as ISIL fighters wake up and realize the caliphate isn’t exactly the land of rainbows and unicorns they thought it was when they went to show up, they throw down their guns and they run away,” noted Warren.
Warren expressed guarded optimism that the successes against ISIS and the recent captures were positive sign for the U.S. and its partners in the fight against ISIS, however, he qualified by saying he does not believe it has reached a turning point.
“I am not prepared to declare a turning point yet, what I will say is that we believe that this enemy is on the defensive,” said Warren. “Like a fighter who’s in the ring, whose arms are getting heavy, his knees are starting to get weak, He’s become more and more vulnerable to our punishing offensive attacks. That said … He’s still dangerous, he’s got a punchers chance at this point. But with every tick of the clock, hes growing weaker and weaker and weaker. We believe that the end is inevitable.”