Performing U.S. Protection chief Pat Shanahan mentioned Monday the Islamic State group stays a “international presence,” as U.S.-backed fighters work to clear the final enclave the militants maintain in jap Syria.

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Shanahan instructed reporters touring with him on a visit to Afghanistan that on the subject of the diploma of Islamic State’s capabilities, that varies from “residual pockets to sleeper cells.”

“However within the context of navy operations, I feel the characterization of progress inside Syria has been that they’ve been decimated and that we’re making important progress” within the Center Euphrates River Valley, Shanahan mentioned.

Final week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to reassure allies the US wouldn’t abandon efforts to destroy Islamic State when it withdraw its troops from Syria. Shanahan mentioned Monday he plans to debate the scenario this week with NATO allies, together with help and safety operations that he says are essential when shifting away from a major navy operation.

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The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces mentioned Sunday they’d recaptured 41 positions held by Islamic State militants in jap Syria.

Mustafa Bali, an SDF spokesman, tweeted that SDF forces had destroyed fortifications within the Village of Baghuz, however that heavy combating continued.

“#SDF have superior on northern and western axis into Baghuz since 19:00 yesterday night, capturing 41 positions of ISIS and destroying fortifications. IS counterattack was foiled at Four am this morning. Heavy combating is happening contained in the final village in the intervening time,” he wrote.

“There are heavy clashes in the intervening time. We have now launched an assault and the fighters are advancing,” an SDF discipline commander instructed AFP Sunday.

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The SDF, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, is combating IS in a 4-square-kilometer space that features Baghuz and is close to the Iraqi border.

SDF officers and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated there have been about 3,00zero battle-hardened IS jihadists, largely foreigners, within the area. The observatory additionally estimated that a number of hundred civilians remained within the space as properly.

Greater than 23,00zero Syrian civilians and overseas nationals fled jap Syria this previous week because the SDF, which incorporates Kurdish YPG militia fighters, ready to maneuver on IS in Deir el-Zour governorate, in line with native officers and activists.

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The displaced residents, largely girls and kids, have been positioned within the Kurdish al-Hol camp in al-Hasakah governorate, in northeast Syria.

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The administrator of the camp, Nabil Hassan, instructed VOA that most of the girls and kids from the brand new wave of displacement this week had been overseas nationals and relations of IS.

SDF started an operation in September to rid Deir el-Zour of IS militants. The U.S.-backed fighters’ advance has been slowed by fierce combating from the IS militants.

The civil warfare that has engulfed Syria started with Arab Spring protests in 2011. The United Nations estimates greater than 400,00zero Syrians have died since combating started in 2011. Greater than 6 million Syrians have been displaced internally and about 5 million have sought refuge exterior the nation, with Turkey internet hosting practically 3.5 million of them, in line with the United Nations.

Rikar Hussein contributed to this report.

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