mattis in iraq karadsheh live_00002408.jpg
mattis in iraq karadsheh live_00002408.jpg
Now playing
01:30
Defense Secretary Mattis arrives in Baghdad
PHOTO: Fred Pleitgen/CNN
Now playing
03:21
US planes spy on ISIS from edge of space
inside mosuls liberated neighborhoods black pkg_00000000.jpg
inside mosuls liberated neighborhoods black pkg_00000000.jpg
Now playing
02:51
Inside liberated Mosul neighborhoods
Members of the Iraqi forces watch Donald Trump giving a speech after he won the US president elections in the village of Arbid on the southern outskirts of Mosul on November 9, 2016, as they rest in a house during the ongoing military operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) group.
PHOTO: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Members of the Iraqi forces watch Donald Trump giving a speech after he won the US president elections in the village of Arbid on the southern outskirts of Mosul on November 9, 2016, as they rest in a house during the ongoing military operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) group.
Now playing
02:15
How will Trump handle Iraq?
PHOTO: kurdistan 24
Now playing
02:16
ISIS ambush in Kirkuk
PHOTO: google maps
Now playing
02:17
US service member killed in action in northern Iraq
isis drone use mosul nick paton walsh dnt_00001722.jpg
isis drone use mosul nick paton walsh dnt_00001722.jpg
Now playing
02:43
ISIS using drones in battle for Mosul
iraq forces mosul michael holmes lkv_00015709.jpg
iraq forces mosul michael holmes lkv_00015709.jpg
Now playing
03:27
Iraqi-led forces push into ISIS territory
mosul most intense day fighting damon dnt _00004210.jpg
mosul most intense day fighting damon dnt _00004210.jpg
Now playing
02:44
Mosul: Most intense day of fighting
 Iraqi Troops Mosul damon lkl_00003730.jpg
Iraqi Troops Mosul damon lkl_00003730.jpg
Now playing
01:53
Iraqi troops enter Christian town on outskirts of Mosul
Iraqi refugees debunk ISIS' portrayal of Mosul
PHOTO: CNN
Iraqi refugees debunk ISIS' portrayal of Mosul
Now playing
02:12
Iraqi refugees debunk ISIS' portrayal of Mosul
Iraq Mosul ISIS tunnels Damon lkl _00020013.jpg
Iraq Mosul ISIS tunnels Damon lkl _00020013.jpg
Now playing
02:24
Exploring ISIS tunnels near Mosul
battle for mosul paton walsh pkg_00023629.jpg
battle for mosul paton walsh pkg_00023629.jpg
Now playing
01:16
Dramatic moments from the battle for Mosul
(CNN) —  

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, on a whistlestop tour of Iraq, said the defeat of ISIS is now imminent and he is confident US-backed Iraqi forces will finish off fighters in their last remaining strongholds in the country.

“ISIS is on the run and they have been shown to be unable to stand up to our team, have not retaken one inch of ground,” he told reporters during a briefing in Bagdhad.

Mattis’s trip to Iraq coincided with an assault by Iraqi forces, backed by US coalition forces, on the last remaining city held by ISIS in northern Iraq, Tal Afar.

Iraqi forces, backed by Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilization Forces, advance towards the Iraqi city of Tal Afar
PHOTO: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi forces, backed by Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilization Forces, advance towards the Iraqi city of Tal Afar

“A year ago the liberation of Mosul was just some ideas and lines in paper, the liberation of Raqqa was not even that,” said Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force in Iraq.

“This week saw the start of Tal Afar after the hard-won victory in Mosul. We’ve seen our Iraqi partners quickly refit and transition their force into a new defensive in Tal Afar. In Syria we’re in our third month to defeat ISIS. Daesh’s defeat is inevitable. They are surrounded and cut off but their cruelty continues to shine through as they hide among women and children,” he said.

Civilian casualties

In response to a question regarding civil casualties in the military campaign against ISIS, Mattis said there was “no military in the world’s history that has paid more attention to limiting civilian casualties. Precision gave us options that we’ve never had before.”

Two Syrian monitoring groups claimed Tuesday that at least 37 civilians were killed as a result of airstrikes by the US-led coalition in Raqqa Monday night.

Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, a network of local activists, said coalition airstrikes killed 37 civilians in the neighborhood of al-Sakhani.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the number at 42, saying the airstrikes hit the al-Sakhani and Badu neighborhoods.

Syrian state media said Tuesday the coalition airstrikes killed 78 civilians in Raqqa in the previous 24 hours.

“The Coalition takes all allegations of civilian casualties seriously and assesses all credible allegations of possible civilian casualties. However, the recent allegations by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights lack specificity and detail making it very difficult to properly assess,” the public affairs office of the Coalition Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve said in reply to CNN questions.

ISIS “violating every standard of decency”

“An enemy that hides behind women and children are showing who are the people violating every standard of decency and fills us with conviction [for] what we have to do about this enemy,” said Mattis.

“I’ve seen people fleeing to ISF (Iraqi security forces) and feeling safe when they get to them. That alone is more telling than anything there, you see people risking their lives getting from one side to another. We are the good guys and the innocent people in the battlefield know the difference.”

After briefing journalists, Mattis and Townsend left for the Kurdish-controlled Iraqi city of Erbil, where they were to meet with the President of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, Masoud Barzani.