Western coalition expects ISIS to fight hard to retain Manbij

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Militants of the Islamic State (ISIS). File photo

ARA News 

KOBANE – Colonel Christopher Garver, US-led coalition’s Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, said that the final phase of Manbij operation will be difficult and that Islamic State group (ISIS) will fight hard to keep Manbij in its hands. 

Supported by the coalition’s air cover, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) advanced towards the city of Manbij after heavy clashes with ISIS militants.

“The SDF has met heavy resistance from Daesh [ISIS] at the onset of the operation and at points along the way. We assess that Daesh will fight hard to retain Manbij as it is the key terrain on the line of communication out of Raqqa,” Garver told a press conference on Wednesday. “Daesh has employed the tactics we have seen before as they defend and then cede territory, including the extensive use of IEDs to slow advancing forces and significantly damage the infrastructure they have lost.”

“Manbij is strategically important to Daesh because they rely on its proximity to a border to smuggle in foreign fighters, supplies and export terrorism to the West.  It is an important line of communication between Raqqa, the capital of their so-called caliphate, and outside Syria,” he added.

The Manbij Military Council attacked Manbij with 3,000 troops from multiple points to the east of Manbij, almost completely encircling the city of Manbij since Thursday.

“The SDF performed an improved bridge river crossing, a significant military operation in its own right, and then they secured, repaired and reopened the Qarah Quzah Bridge known as Q2, across the Euphrates.  The control and restoration of this bridge has enabled the SAC-led forces to deliver much-needed humanitarian supplies to their neighbors, as well as push the attack,” Garver said.

In the meanwhile, operations continue towards Manbij, although the cost is high, the US-led coalition spokesperson said. “They [SDF] have suffered approximately a dozen killed and more than 100 wounded during the fighting.  Their losses include the death of Abu Layla, the leader of a Shams Al-Shamal, a multi-ethnic unified local liberation force,” he added.

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