Coalition forces are making progress in the battle against ISIS, National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Sunday.
In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, Rice said she believes the key cities Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria would fall to US-backed Syrian forces.
“The Iraqi Security Forces inside of Iraq have taken back about 55 percent of the populated territory that ISIL originally seized back in 2014,” Rice said, using another name for the Islamic State. “They have now, with our support and that of our 68-country coalition, encircled Mosul and they’re beginning to move into parts of Mosul,” she added.
As for the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, the process of isolating and ultimately seizing the city has already begun, she said.
However, Rice acknowledged that despite the progress made, wiping ISIS from the region is still “going to be a very difficult fight.”
“ISIL has been entrenched there for several years now. It built up very significant defenses. And so we can’t expect that to be quick and easy. But I believe that in due time that (effort) will succeed, and we are working very assiduously to support the Iraqi Security Forces as they do that,” she said.
ISIS’ de facto capital of Raqqa poses a particular long-term challenge, Rice said, given the city’s predominantly Sunni Arab population.
“This is a complicated endeavor because the force that is best capable of conducting the isolation consists not only of Syrian Arabs, but also of Syrian Kurds. And Raqqa will need to be ultimately taken by Syrian Arabs, who would be more accepted by the population,” Rice said.