Iraqi forces launch new push to free Mosul airport, military base

The on-going study of ways to accelerate the campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist organization is a "whole of government" effort that seeks to give President Donald J. Trump political and economic options, in addition to military actions, to provide enduring effects, the nation's top military officer said February 23.

Those 450 troops do not account for the unknown number of USA special operations teams also advising Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the country, Col. Dorrian told reporters during a briefing from Baghdad Wednesday.

Iraqi officials are keen to keep as much coalition support as possible after a seemingly successful first day in western Mosul, pointing to the possibility of an open-ended US commitment to supporting the fight against ISIS. "Iraqi forces need to have the stomach to embark on at least three months of combat", added Tenenbaum.

There are approximately 5,000 USA troops inside Iraq, with several hundred embedded with Iraqi security forces advancing on multiple fronts on Mosul.

Making up for a lack of fighters, IS militants are increasingly relying on modified commercial drones to guide suicide vehicle bombers to their targets and to launch small-scale airstrikes on Iraqi forces.

The war against ISIS is entering a tough new phase, as Iraqi fighters with growing US assistance push into western Mosul, warns the senior American commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend.

Further south, federal police battled their way through the airport, securing most of it by nightfall, while U.S. and French fighter jets and drones, and U.S. Apache helicopters pounded ISIS targets from above, called in by American special operations forces working on the ground with Iraqi units.

"Everything we do or fail to do will have second and third effects", Dunford said.

Clashes at Mosul's airport continued for hours, with IS militants hunkered down inside several airport buildings.

Since then, the military says they have retaken almost 50 square miles south of the city. The burnt corpses of two militants and the motorcycle from which they had fired at Iraqi forces were lying under a tree, apparently hit by an air strike.

In late January, Trump gave Defense Secretary Jim Mattis 30 days to develop a preliminary plan to defeat the IS and the deadline will be next week, although the president has not said the steps he is determined to take in this campaign.

Mosul, which is now the last IS urban stronghold in the country, fell into the hands of the extremists in the summer of 2014, during a shocking blitz that captured large swaths of northern and western Iraq. "We'll talk about the complexity of dealing with Turkish forces, Iranian interests in the region, the presence of Russian Federation and all of those things", he said.

Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters backed by the United States are to play the principal role in seizing Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State's professed caliphate.

The streets are older and narrower in the sector of the city that stretches west from the Tigris River that divides Mosul into its eastern and western halves.

"They are ahead of schedule of where we thought they would be", said Brigadier General Hugh McAslan, a New Zealand officer who is a senior commander here.

Abdul-Zahra and Salaheddin reported from Baghdad.

  • Leroy Wright