‘A new war’ is raging in the Middle East, with US troops stepping up airstrikes on ISIL targets

By RYAN STOCKMAN US forces have ramped up airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group as the terror group continues to claim a string of attacks in the region, and the White House has been increasingly vocal in its condemnation of the group.

The latest is the launch of a new “anti-terror campaign” targeting the ISIL group that will be conducted by US troops and supported by UK and Australian aircraft.US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that the new campaign will target ISIL, the group that has declared its “caliphate”, and its affiliates.

The strikes are part of a wider US effort to drive ISIL from large swaths of territory, as well as target the groups oil and banking networks, said Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren.US-led coalition airstrikes have killed more than 2,200 militants, including about 1,000 senior ISIL commanders, Warren said.

“The goal is to eliminate the Islamic group from territory it holds across Syria and Iraq,” Warren said at a press briefing.US air strikes were launched in Iraq in January 2017 and are expected to ramp up further in coming weeks.

They are being launched against ISIL targets in Iraq, Syria and Libya, he said, adding that a “large proportion” of US strikes were conducted in Iraq.

“We are also conducting strikes in Libya against ISIL in Libya, and in Syria against ISIL and other terrorist groups in Syria,” Warren added.

“We will continue to target ISIL and its allies in Syria.”

Warren said the US military “will continue to operate in the air, on the ground, and on the sea in support of coalition operations”.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the airstrikes in Syria and the Libya operation would be focused on the “Islamic State of the Levant”, also known as ISIL, a group that declared its caliphate in 2014.

In the region in the past year, US aircraft have conducted more than 20 strikes in Iraq and Syria, killing about 100 fighters, Warren added, adding the US had also struck the group’s oil and gas infrastructure in Libya.

He said US forces would continue to work with allies to ensure the “continued operation of coalition aircraft and aircraft-carriers in support” of the mission.

“These aircraft and vessels will continue their support of Iraqi, Syrian, and coalition forces,” Warren confirmed.

“They will continue conducting strikes on ISIL in Iraq as well.”

Warren also said the new US anti-terror operation was not limited to Iraq.

“It includes operations in Syria as well,” he said.

A spokesman for the British government said Britain was also conducting its own anti-terrorism campaign.

The US strikes in Syria are “a clear demonstration of our continued commitment to defeating ISIL in Syria”, said Pentagon Press Secretary Jeff Davis.

“This new campaign against ISIL has the full support of the United States, and will further our commitment to the fight against ISIL,” he added.

The UK military is “ready to support the US in its anti-ISIL campaign” in Syria, said Lt Col Peter Lomas, who heads the UK’s Combined Air Operations Centre.

The attacks in Syria also come as a US-led effort to oust ISIL fighters from Raqqa, a strategic Islamic State stronghold in Syria that has been under siege by the group since 2015.