News | Jan. 25, 2017

Iraqi Forces Free Eastern Mosul From ISIL, OIR Commander Says

By Terri Moon Cronk

Last night, Iraqi security forces liberated eastern Mosul from more than two years of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s control, Army Maj. Gen. Joseph M. Martin, commanding general, Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters today.

VIDEO | 00:56 | General Updates Reporters on Iraqi Counter-ISIL Operations

“After more than 100 days of tough urban combat, the government of Iraq and the Iraqi security forces announced the liberation of eastern Mosul,” said Martin, who’s also commander of the 1st Infantry Division in Fort Riley, Kansas.

“While clearance operations will continue, the Iraqi security forces control all areas inside of the city east of the Tigris River,” the general said.

‘Monumental Achievement’

Calling the liberation of eastern Mosul “a monumental achievement” for the Iraqi security forces, Martin said the success would have been a difficult task for any army in the world.

“It's the hardest door-to-door fighting the world has seen in recent history,” he emphasized.

‘Difficult Fight’ for Western Mosul Ahead

“There is still a difficult fight ahead in western Mosul, but the ISF has proven that they are both a professional and formidable fighting force,” Martin said.

Overall, the city of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, is about 145 square kilometers -- nearly 56 miles -- and about the size of Philadelphia. The city has 1.2 million residents, more than 200,000 structures and nearly 3,000 kilometers -- more than 1,864 miles -- of road to clear, Martin said.

The ISF’s next fight to retake western Mosul will be challenging, Martin said, adding that ISIL has controlled the entire city for more than two years. And in that time, he added, the enemy has fortified its defensive positions and prepared its supplies for that defense.

VIDEO | 01:38 | General Discusses Counter-ISIL Military Goals

“[ISIL] continues to occupy protected civilian infrastructure such as hospitals, schools and mosques,” the general said of western Mosul. “We know they've done this on the east side and we can reasonably expect more of the same on the west side.”

Iraqis’ Sustained Success

Martin said with help from the coalition, the ISF has had sustained success in the past two-plus years.

“Think about it,” he said. “Since September 2014, when the enemy was essentially at the gates of Baghdad, they've liberated over 2.4 million people; regained tens of thousands of square kilometers of ground; and liberated hundreds of towns and villages.”

Through joint operations, the coalition has degraded ISIL's fighters on the front lines, Martin said, adding, “We've interrupted their command-and-control apparatus and imposed an incredible strain on their leaders, industrial base, financial system, communications networks and the system that they use to bring in foreign fighters to fill their rapidly depleting ranks here in Iraq.”

ISIL continues to be a parasite, relentlessly exploiting the people and infrastructure like hospitals, schools and mosques despite the international laws protecting those sites, the general said.

“The important thing to remember is that the Iraqi security forces and every nation in this coalition are united with the goal to liberate Mosul and defeat [ISIL] in Iraq,” he said.

Martin added, “This country has done an incredible job fighting a very resilient and adaptive foe, but Iraq is committed [as] we are in the coalition to defeating [ISIL] here."

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)