U.S. airstrikes targeting Islamic State surge 300 percent

American warplanes are working overtime against Islamic State targets in Syria, with the number of combat sorties in May against the terror group surging over 300 percent compared to recent months, says new airstrike figures released by command officials Friday. U.S. and coalition combat aircraft flew 225 airstrikes last month, hitting 280 known Islamic State or ISIS redoubts in Syria, located mostly in the volatile Euphrates River Valley, said American commanders with the U.S.-led counterterrorism mission Operation Inherent Resolve. During a single six-day period in May, American and allied fighter jets executed 41 airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq, resulting in 49 enemy targets hit, coalition officials said in a statement. “This demonstrates a 304 percent increase over the 74 strikes conducted in March and a 123 percent increase over the 183 strikes recorded in April,” according to Friday’s statement. The majority of the airstrikes were carried out in support of Operation Roundup, the ground campaign led by the Syrian Democratic Forces or SDF — the American-backed coalition of Kurdish and Arab paramilitaries — to eliminate remaining pockets of ISIS resistance in the Euphrates River Valley. “Operation Roundup will continue to build momentum against Daesh remnants remaining in the Iraq-Syria border region and the [Euphrates River Valley],” command officials said in the statement, using the derogatory Arabic term for ISIS. “The Coalition remains committed to the lasting defeat of Daesh here, increasing peace and stability in the region and protecting all our homelands from the Daesh threat,” coalition officials added. Kicking off in early May, the operation is the first major anti-ISIS operation by the SDF and the American-led coalition since the fall of Raqqa — the terror group’s de facto Syrian capital and the heart of its so-called caliphate — in 2017. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters aboard the U.S.S Harry S. Truman carrier strike group began bombarding Islamic State positions in May, linking up with the Navy’s Sixth Fleet — which is responsible for U.S. maritime operations in Europe and North Africa — late last April, as part of the Pentagon’s seemingly final push to eradicate ISIS from its Syrian enclaves. On Thursday, Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said American advisers on the ground in Syria and their higher ups at the Pentagon were seeing good progress from the SDF. “We’re making progress, and, in concert with our SDF partners, I think that we’re beginning to clear out the final pockets of ISIS,” he told reporters during a Defense Department briefing. “We want to leave behind security elements that are going to be able to maintain [security] at the local level,” the three-star general said. “That’s sort of a long-term aim we have, as we push down the Euphrates River Valley, and that progress is continuing.”

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