US launches airstrikes, advises Iraqi forces as effort begins to retake Fallujah

WASHINGTON, May 23 (KUNA) — The Iraqi government began an offensive Monday to retake Fallujah from so-called Islamic State (IS), the US said, and American military spokesman in Baghdad said US military launched airstrikes and advised Iraqi forces in the effort.
Colonel Steve Warren confirmed to Fox News that the US was advising the Iraqis at operation centers in Baghdad and Taqaddum.
“Iranian-backed Shiite militias were reported to have tried to play a role in the Fallujah operation, but the US military will not support those forces,” Warren said.
“Obviously Mosul is also a priority as well,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner noted during a briefing during a discussion of anti-IS efforts.
Asked about the role of Kurdish forces in the anti-IS campaigns in Iraq and Syria, Toner said, “I think we have every confidence in the Kurdish forces’ ability to be an effective partner on the battlefield” and to be able to defeat IS forces, Toner said. “They have proven that time and again as a part of the Iraqi military and under Iraqi government command-and-control.
“We also made it clear to these Kurdish forces as well that they should not seek to create autonomous, semi-autonomous zones, that they should not seek to retain the territory that they liberate,” Toner said. They should “make sure it is returned to whatever civilian authorities there are … so that all displaced people can return there.
“But we also recognize the fact that these are effective fighting forces, and that they are willing to take on and dislodge Daesh (IS),” Toner said of the Kurds. (end) rm.bs

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