World Bulletin / News Desk
"Determined fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) continue to make progress against ISIS as they fight block by block in Raqqa," Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve, said at a press briefing Thursday, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, another name for ISIL.
"The SDF has now cleared more than 50 percent of the city from terrorists," he added.
The U.S. has supported the PKK/PYD -- considered by Turkey as the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terror organization -- along with several other Arab militia groups under the umbrella of the SDF, long vexing Ankara.
The U.S. views the SDF as a "reliable partner" in its fight against ISIL and continues to provide it with arms and equipment against strong objections by Turkey.
Dillon also stressed that it will be a difficult fight to root out ISIL from Tal Afar, one of their last strongholds in Iraq, noting there are approximately 2,000 ISIL fighters in and around the city.
He said ISIL has been under great pressure after losing Mosul and most of its income sources.
"The coalition has struck around 30 ISIS banks and financial centers over the past three years, destroying tens of millions of dollars," Dillon said.
"The Iraqi government has cut off more than 90 bank branches inside ISIS territory from global financial systems."
Turning to an assault on U.S. troops in Manbij, a city in northern Syria, Dillon said U.S. forces came under attack by small arms fire and that the engagement resulted in "no damage to equipment or casualties on our side."
"We do not know who is behind these attacks. Our forces are clearly marked. And we have been operating in that area for some time," he said. " So it should not be news to anyone that we are doing this, operating in that particular area.
He added that the coalition troops did not return fire but "we do reserve the right to defend ourselves."
He also underscored that the U.S. will continue to advise its partners and reassure them in the region.