Fort Hood general leading ISIS fight says caliphate defeated in Iraq


Highlights

Fort Hood commander: ISIS on the run, but big challenges remain.

In a single neighborhood in Raqqa, Syria, troops found 8,000 IEDs; clearing them could take years.

Fort Hood Commander Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II has led Operation Inherent Resolve since September.

Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, who is leading the anti-ISIS campaign in the Middle East, said Monday that even as the Islamic State is pushed from its territories in Iraq and Afghanistan, stubborn challenges will exist in the region, perhaps for years.

Funk pointed to a single neighborhood in Raqqa, Syria, the terror group’s de facto capital, where coalition forces have found more than 8,000 improvised explosive devices planted by fleeing ISIS soldiers. Clearing the devices and making the neighborhood livable is but one example of the lengthy reconstruction that awaits in wide swaths of the region.

Funk said Iraqi and coalition forces have effectively pushed ISIS out of Iraq and all but a few pockets of influence in Syria. “We’ve got a victory here,” Funk told reporters via teleconference from Iraq, adding that “We still have some hard fighting to do in Syria.”

Funk and about 240 members of Fort Hood’s III Corps command group took the reins of Operation Inherent Resolve in September. Since then, about a million more Iraqis and Syrians have been liberated from ISIS rule, he said.

READ: As Fort Hood turns 75, veterans recall their time at ‘The Great Place’

Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that coalition forces had wrested control of the Syria-Iraq border and declared “total victory” over ISIS in his country.

Since the beginning of 2017, coalition forces have driven the Islamic State out of Mosul in northern Iraq, and more recently from the group’s headquarters in Raqqa.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Fort Hood closes a chapter in Iraq

Funk defended the accuracy of U.S. airstrikes, which have been criticized for their toll on civilians, but also credited with pushing ISIS out of territories it seized three years ago.

Last month, the New York Times magazine published an investigation that found airstrikes connected to U.S. military’s anti-ISIS efforts were considerably less precise than the coalition had claimed over the past three years. The magazine, which visited nearly 150 airstrike sites in northern Iraq, said it found that one in five strikes resulted in civilian deaths, a rate 31 times higher than the one acknowledged by the coalition of one in about 157.

Funk said coalition forces take “immense steps” to prevent civilian casualties, and he blamed ISIS for hiding among civilians.

“When the enemy uses civilians as shields it’s incredibly hard not to have civilian casualties,” Funk said. “Our procedures are sound.”

READ: Texas Aggie is hero of dramatic battlefield rescue caught on video

Funk said that in addition to the problem of ISIS IEDs in newly reclaimed territory, a prime challenge in the coming months will be finding jobs for fighting-age men as reconstruction efforts begin. It will be “a big problem if we don’t find them employment,” Funk said.

“We are winning here, but we have to act now,” he said. “We have to get the international community to help the Iraqis.”

In all, about 17,000 Fort Hood troops will be deployed in places like South Korea, Europe, Africa and the Middle East over the Christmas holiday.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Who is James Shaw Jr., the man who disarmed the Waffle House shooter?
Who is James Shaw Jr., the man who disarmed the Waffle House shooter?

One crowded Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee, led Nashville resident James Shaw Jr. to the restaurant where a gunman opened fire early Sunday morning, killing four people. Shaw acted quickly to disarm the gunman and toss the rifle over the counter at the Antioch restaurant, an action police said saved several lives, The Tennessean reported....
Kitchen fire causes $20,000 in damage at Casino El Camino on Sixth Street
Kitchen fire causes $20,000 in damage at Casino El Camino on Sixth Street

Austin emergency crews responded to a fire in the kitchen area of a bar and grill on Sixth Street early Sunday morning, according to the Austin Fire Department. Officials responded to a reported smoke on the second floor of Casino El Camino in the 500 block of Sixth Street. Fire officials later found the fire “between 1st and 2nd floor after...
Waffle House 'hero' disarmed shooter, tossed rifle over counter
Waffle House 'hero' disarmed shooter, tossed rifle over counter

Some fast thinking by a Waffle House patron in Antioch, Tennessee, saved numerous lives after a man opened fire at the restaurant, The Tennessean reported. Police said the suspected shooter, believed to be Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, Illinois, opened fire at about 3:25 a.m. at the Waffle House. James Shaw Jr., 29, was sitting in the Waffle...
California man stabbed to death while dining with daughter on lap
California man stabbed to death while dining with daughter on lap

A California man eating at a steakhouse with his daughter on his lap was stabbed to death Wednesday when a homeless man allegedly walked up and attacked him, CNN reported. Anthony Mele Jr. 35, died Thursday, but his 5-year-old daughter was not hurt, the Ventura Police Department said. Mele was dining at the Aloha Steakhouse, a beachside restaurant...
FORECAST: Breezy Sunday, with temps to hit 76
FORECAST: Breezy Sunday, with temps to hit 76

Sunday forecast for Austin: Plan for a sunny end to the weekend, with a high of 76 and north winds moving 10 to 15 mph during the day, then mostly clear skies and a low of 54 at night, with north winds moving 5 to 10 mph before becoming light northwest winds after midnight. Monday: Sunny, with a high of 82 and north northwest winds moving 5 to 10 mph...
More Stories