Tag Archives: Yemen

ISIS has not retaken a single square kilometer freed in coalition-enabled operations

Newsroom24x7 Network

Washington: The Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS had a series of meetings hosted by Brett McGurk, the US President’s special envoy to the Coalition, in Washington this week.

Briefing media-persons here on Thursday, on the latest in the campaign to defeat ISIS, Brett McGurk said the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, which welcomed Ethiopia as a new member is one of the largest coalitions in history. Besides Ethiopia, there were countries from the Lake Chad Basin in a very special session to talk about the unique aspects of counter-ISIS and counter-extremism in West Africa.

The sessions during the series of meeting in Washington this week were also focused on the recent events in Iraq and Syria. There was a very detailed discussion Thursday morning (US time) about Mosul and what comes after Mosul

McGurk told journalists that this has been a year long campaign in Mosul; it kind of culminated just over the last few days. In Syria, the Raqqa campaign now gets underway. Raqqa and Syria is much more complicated than Iraq, but fairly similar model. There the coalition is working by and preparing the ground for basic humanitarian and stabilization relief efforts.

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Brett McGurk went on to underscore:


Almost 2 million Iraqis – 1.9 million Iraqis to be more precise – most of these Sunni Arabs – have returned to their home after ISIS was pushed out of their communities. Reconciliation from the bottom up is whats now happening and whats critical is that people are returning home.

On Return of ISIS

In terms of the return of ISIS, there will be political difficulties in Iraq for the rest of our lifetimes. That’s something that they will deal with through their political system. Very important meetings have been there with the Kurds over the past couple days. There has also been an important ministerial delegation from Baghdad that went to Erbil earlier this week to discuss issues of oil, electricity, bank exchanges – all sort of things.

What fueled ISIS

What really fueled ISIS and fueled the rise of ISIS were 40,000 foreign fighters poured into Syria over the course of about four years. These are the foreign fighters, the hardcore terrorists, the suicide bombers. And so you had in Iraq a situation in which 2010, ’11, ’12, about five to ten suicide bombers a month, which still – I mean, that’s kind of extraordinary to think about. That went up last year almost to a hundred suicide bombers a month, and even in 2014, it went up to 60, 70 a month. Any country, if you have all these people coming from all around the world to blow themselves up in mosques, ice cream parlors, killing children, killing children in soccer games – this is what was happening in Iraq. So long as you have that going on, from all these people from all around the world, it’s very difficult to talk about political progress, quite frankly.

We defeated ISIS on the ground and we pushed them out of their territory, we have also worked to shut down the flow of those foreign fighters. And the foreign fighters are not coming into Syria anymore, and those who are already in Iraq and Syria we’ve been working very hard to make sure that they can never get out.


Mosul is a huge city of 1.5 million people. The ambassador of Iraq to the United States, Fareed Yasseen, Ambassador Yasseen spoke addressed a session. His father is from Mosul, where the ISIS blew up the Grand Nuri mosque which stood there for 700 years. He said it would be like in France if terrorists took down the Eiffel Tower or here if they took down the Washington Monument, trying to put ourselves in the shoes of what that is like, and you can compare it to the Twin Towers on 9/11, waking up – anyone who lived in New York, you wake up every day and the towers are no longer there. That’s what’s happening in Mosul right now, so a tremendously traumatic experience for 1.5 million people who lived under these terrorists, and the city and its landscape changed forever.

East side of the city, where the battle ended about five months ago – and I discussed this today – we have 220,000 people are back in their homes. We have over 300,000 children that were living under ISIS are back in schools.

Mosul Campaign

The Mosul campaign, this was one of the most difficult military operations since World War II. This was a campaign in a city of one and a half million people with an enemy that has barricaded themselves amongst the population. In the Old City of Mosul, in these final weeks of the battle, we had hundreds of foreign fighters from all around the world. I mentioned in my comments this morning we heard on the radios ISIS talking, speaking Chinese, French, Arabic with non-Iraqi dialects, Dutch, Russian – barricaded, killing civilians, in high-rise buildings.

Throughout the campaign in Mosul, we have seen – and our people have been on the ground advising Iraqi forces – we have seen them put protection of civilians at the top of their campaign plan, and Iraqi soldiers have died because of that focus on protecting civilians.

65,000 square kilometers have been cleared of ISIS. Four million people have been freed from ISIS. In Iraq alone, 1.9 million people back in their homes. We have never seen anything like that in a post-conflict environment.


The liberation of Nadia was delayed for a couple days as the ISIS terrorists were holed up in a building, and they had a number of civilians trapped in the basement. The Iraqi Security Forces could drop a bomb on that building, and it decided to work methodically to try to root out the terrorists from that building to save the civilians.

Anbar Province

Anbar province was a major war zone a year ago but now a million people are back in their homes. There is a ton of problems in Iraq and Syria, but the record where the coalition is operating by with and through local partners, not only ISIS has been defeated, but they are not able to come back, and people are returning to their communities to restore their life..


In Tabqa, a town liberated two weeks ago, the landmines have been cleared from the roads only days earlier. There we have a devastated community where people had been living under ISIS for over three years. They talk about the children and the brainwashing and all that has to happen for these communities to recover. There’s a very long way to go, but there is this global coalition to do all it can to help.

End of the road for ISIS

ISIS has not retaken a single square kilometer that has been freed in coalition-enabled operations. This is not a situation in which we have a military campaign, we’re going to clear territory, and then it can’t be held. Every single speck of land that has been retaken in coalition-enabled operations has held. ISIS has not retaken any of it. Other extremist groups have not come back to retake any of it.


The objective is to preserve the territorial integrity of Syria under Security Council Resolutions 2254. But you cannot take Syria as just one problem set, because there are different problems in different areas. So if you take the southwest, what we did there – and I think quite successfully – is a very painstaking negotiation with Jordan and with Russia and with us trilaterally to map out a very detailed – we call it a line of contact – between opposition and regime forces. And everybody agreed on that line of contact, and that is the ceasefire line.

Ceasefire line

The Russians have made clear they are very serious about this and willing to put some of their people on the ground to help monitor from the regime side. They do not want the regime violating this ceasefire, and President Putin and President Trump in Hamburg had a very important meeting to kind of lock all this down. So what has been done in the southwest is different than what has been tried in other areas.

Shooting down of Syrian plane

Since the shooting down of that Syrian plane, by necessity given what that plane was doing, there have been constructive military-to-military discussions – with the Russians about de-confliction arrangements.

Southwest Syria

There is an ISIS presence in the southwest. It’s right in the corner called the tri-border. It is – it’s an extremist group called Jaysh Khalid bin Walid and they have moved into part of this area, some months ago, and committed terrible atrocities, which ISIS does. There is need for a ceasefire in the southwest to root out those extremist remnants.

Syria is far more complicated than Iraq. There the US does not have a government to work with and that’s not going to change anytime soon. What the global coalition is trying to do vis-a-vis Syria is make sure that in areas in which it is operating and working with democratic forces, there are de-confliction arrangements in place so that there’s a clear delineation of territory to avoid incidents like the recent shooting down of a Syrian plane. The coalition is working hard with the Russians on those types of arrangements. It is also working with the Syrian Democratic Forces, to ensure people start returning to their communities and the forces continue to hold areas they have taken from ISIS.

The goal is to defeat ISIS and de-escalate the overall civil war. And that’s through arrangements of ceasefires, of de-confliction areas, so you can then begin a real, credible process to actually have a political settlement. So this will not happen in the immediate term, but that’s kind of the phased approach being taking.


GCC and coalition against ISIS

In terms of the situation within the GCC, there has been no impact on the counter-ISIS campaign. When it comes to professional military relationships within the GCC, there has been no impact. On political disagreements that are ongoing there, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is now working on that.

Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Shabaab and their connections to ISIS

As a military coalition, the focus is in Iraq and Syria. The Interpol is also there, as one of the newest members of the coalition. They’ve built a database now of 19,000 names. When a foreign terrorist fighter and his phone on the battlefield is found, there is a whole system to analyze that, confirm the names, share them with host – with coalition partner nations. A database for these people is being built. So any of these guys that came into Syria and slipped out before the noose was really tightened, all efforts are there to make sure that not only now but in the years ahead they can be tracked; they can be stopped at border posts; they could be stopped on a routine traffic stop.

Coalition session on Libya

A little bit of focus is also on West Africa. There were coalition sessions focused on Libya. In Libya there was kind of this hockey-stick-like growth of ISIS in Libya. The coalition has helped root out those areas and would continue to work with the Libyans on that.


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Saudi-led strike hits wrong troops in Yemen

Newsroom24x7 Desk

yemen conflictYemen : Northern Shia Muslim rebels known as Houthis, backed by forces loyal to Yemen’s ex-president, took over parts of Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa, and forced the government into exile in the early months of March this year. The rebels accused the government of corruption and of planning to marginalize their heartland within a proposed federal system. Following which, Forces loyal to the government and southern militias regained control of Aden in July, aided by Saudi-led coalition air strikes and troops.

This Saturday, Saudi-led air coalition targeting Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen mistakenly hit a pro-government position, killing at least 20 troops, as confirmed by security officials. At least another 20 people are supposedly injured due to this act of mistaken target bombing. The strike took place between the southern Taiz and Lahj provinces, that region in Yemen which had been witnessing very fierce clashes recently in the immediate past days.

A pro-government security official informed media that probably, the attackers miscalculated a Houthi-presence in the hit-zone, and took on them, presuming that the Houthis were still placed in that region. It is important to note that the Saudi-led coalition has been backing forces in Yemen loyal to the exiled President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Pro-Hadi forces retook Lahj and four other provinces in mid-July as part of a southern offensive.

Fighting has catapulted for months in Taiz, Tiaz being that region which had been under the siege of the the rebels since last year. Tiaz has been projected as a route from which the roads to capital capture gets opened, as it has been seen as a gateway to the capital Sanaa.

A separate coalition air strike on Saturday killed 13 Houthi rebels in the desert province of Jawf. Separately, three pro-government fighters were killed in rebel rocket shelling in Marib province east of Sanaa. Hundreds of Sudanese troops reportedly arrived in the southern port city of Aden on Saturday. This troop strength was a preliminary batch of an expected 10,000 reinforcements for the Saudi-led coalition, which are expected to take their positions sooner than later, with a mission of securing Aden – the region which stood witness to a surge of assassinations of pro-government military leaders in recent weeks.

Around 4,500 civilians have been killed in the conflict since March. Additionally, nearly 1.5 million people have been displaced due to long standing conflict. The UN estimated that around 13 million people faced food shortages and 80% of the population needed some form of aid in an urgent basis.

US has worked actively with Indians and others to help Americans leave Yemen

Newsroom24x7 Desk

Indian Navy’s massive evacuation mission in Yemen (representative photo)

Washington DC: The US has actively worked with Indians and others, including organisations like International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to use their resources and to tell Americans how they they can use those resources to leave Yemen.

This was pointed out by Marie Harf, the US department of State Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications, at the daily press briefing here on Monday. Ms. Harf said: “are aware that several other U.S. citizens are detained in Yemen” while confirming that U.S. citizen Casey Coombs ( a freelance journalist) had left Yemen and arrived safely in Muscat, Oman, she said that he was in stable condition. She also told journalists that the U.S. ambassador and a consular official met him at the airport upon his arrival and were providing all possible consular assistance.

Ms. Harf said: “We are grateful to the Government of Oman and personally to Sultan Qaboos for assisting with the safe passage of a U.S. citizen to Oman, and deeply appreciate his majesty’s friendship to our country.”

Casey Coombs
Casey Coombs

When asked whether Coombs had been detained by the Rebel Houthis, Ms. Harf neither confirmed nor denied it. She summed up the query by saying: “I don’t have more details to share”. When asked whether Coombs was injured or wounded, she replied: “I don’t have more details on that to share, but I know there have been some press reports out there about his condition, so we wanted folks to know that he is in stable condition.”

Citing “their safety” as the reason, Ms. Harf said it would not be possible to give the specific number of Americans held in Yemen. She also said: “we are doing everything we can to obtain the release of these individuals. And obviously, there are a number of ways we can do that, some of which we’ve talked about before.

Ms. Harf further said, Americans were being told not to go to Yemen as the situation there is dangerous. More so as the US embassy has been temporarily closed, and he US does not have the same kind of resources to help them (the Americans) if they get into trouble or get taken or have an issue that they need resolved. She states categorically – “while we have not used American assets to evacuate Americans, we have actively worked with international organizations like IOM, like the ICRC, and with other countries like Djibouti and the Indians and others to use their resources and to tell Americans how they can use those resources to leave Yemen. So we have done everything we can to let Americans know what the resources out there are and to help facilitate them taking advantage of those resources.”

On being asked by a journalist if there was any talks in Oman between the U.S. and the Houthis regarding the situation in Yemen in general and about the Americans specifically, Ms. Harf said that US Assistant Secretary Patterson traveled to Oman and to Saudi Arabia to conduct meetings and consultations with a variety of regional parties on the crisis in Yemen.

When asked whether or not she met with the Houthis, the Ms. Harf said: “they engage with a wide swath of Yemenis from a number of different groups, and we’re just not going to get into specifics.”

Yemen crisis: Houthis accept 5-day ceasefire plan

Newsroom24x7 Desk

yemen crisisRiyadh: The Houthi rebels and their allies have accepted the US-backed 5-day ceasefire for humanitarian purposes in Yemen.

The five-day humanitarian ceasefire to allow the flow of humanitarian assistance in every corner of Yemen, ravaged and devastated by civil war, will begin on Tuesday, May 12, at 11:00 p.m. and will last for five days. The ceasefire is likely to be extended if it works out, the US Secretary of State John Kerry had announced coinciding with the GCC foreign Minister’s meeting in Paris on May 8.

The requirements, Kerry said, are first and foremost that there is a commitment by the Houthis and their allies, including Ali Abdullah Saleh and those forces that are loyal to him, to abide by the ceasefire. A point he had also underscored at Riyadh last week.