The tide is turning against the Islamist extremists of ISIL and al-Qaida,according to Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook,who briefed reporters on 19 December 2016.Over the weekend,the Libyan Government of National Accord announced the successful conclusion of the campaign to liberate the city of Sirte from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant,Mr.Cook noted.It was the only city outside of Iraq and Syria under ISIL's control.US Africa Command carried out this mission with particular skill,especially limiting the risk of civilian casualties in carrying out airstrikes in Sirte,Mr.Cook pointed out.We will continue to keep a close eye on the remnants of ISIL in Libya and will continue to assist the GNA as appropriate going forward.*
In Iraq,Mr.Cook said,the Iraqi Security Forces continue to degrade ISIL in Mosul,where the ISF has cleared approximately 20% of the city.
In Syria,the Syrian Democratic Forces rebel group have reached the Euphrates River northwest of the ISIL stronghold of Raqqa,which is important as the SDF try to isolate ISIL within Raqqa.Importantly,the SDF is continuing to attract Arab fighters for continuing the fight against ISIL.*
And finally,on the progress of counterterrorism in Afghansitan,we previously announced on October 23 that a precision airstrike near Kunar,Afghanistan killed Faruq al-Qatani,the al-Qaida emir for Eastern Afghanistan.The Department has now determined that the same airstrike killed two additional senior al-Qaida leaders:Bilal al-Utaybi,who was al-Qatani's deputy;and Abd al-Wahd al-Junabi,a senior al-Qaida explosives expert.All three were actively involved in the planning and carrying out of acts of terror inside and outside Afghanistan.The deaths of these three senior leaders will significantly disrupt the group's ability to threaten the US,our interests and our allies,and highlights our continuing commitment to the counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan.This strike is further evidence that those who seek to do us harm are not beyond our reach,Peter Cook concluded at the Pentagon on Monday.