The U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has liberated about 60 percent of ISIL-held territory in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman told Pentagon reporters today.
In a teleconferenced briefing from Baghdad, Air Force Col. John L. Dorrian said that even though ISIL is losing ground, the enemy continues to use barbaric population-control measures on Mosul residents in its attempt to complicate the advance of Iraqi security forces.
“ISIL remains on the back foot in Mosul,” the colonel said. “Its leaders are accusing citizens of spying, and tragically, they are executing people who don't cooperate with them in some cases.” ISIL also has lost trust in some of its fighters and has executed some of them, he added.
ISIL’s Losses No Surprise
Although ISIL has fought hard to maintain control of territory in Mosul, their difficulty in maintaining control is no surprise, Dorrian said. “The coalition has made a concerted effort to degrade the ISIL leadership network in Mosul in preparation for the battle,” he said.
“Even before the battle ensued between August and October 2016, 18 ISIL leaders in and around Mosul were killed by coalition airstrikes,” he continued. “These ISIL leaders were involved in Mosul's security, law enforcement and the perverted control of local civilians and attack plots away from the city.”
Since the battle started more than 100 days ago, the U.S.-led coalition killed an additional 15 ISIL leaders in Mosul, including Abu Abbas, a terrorist fighter leader killed Jan. 12, and Abu Taha, who was ISIL's jailer and also responsible for the implementation of population control measures in the city. He was killed Oct. 31, Dorrian said.
A Less-Experienced ISIL in West Mosul
“What this means is that ISIL leaders who are trying to defend their territory in west Mosul are less experienced and less effective than the leaders that they replaced,” the colonel explained. “We expect them to continue fighting hard and for the rest of the west side of Mosul to be difficult, but they do not have enough capability remaining to stop the [Iraqi forces’] advance.”
For now, the Iraqi army continues back-clearing areas in the east and north of Mosul and clearing areas in the north to set conditions for operations on the west side, Dorrian said.
“Coalition forces are working with the [Iraqi forces] on planning how we can support [them] with advice and assistance; strikes; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. And we continue training hold forces for once Mosul is liberated,” he said.
The terrain in west Mosul is challenging to clear, Dorrian noted, and the narrowness of the roads and the density of the buildings sets conditions for close fighting.
SDF Back-Clearing Near Tabqa Dam
In Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces with their affiliated Syrian-Arab Coalition fighters continue to back-clear and strengthen defensive positions 2 to 3 miles west of Tabqa Dam, the spokesman said.
“As local Arab tribes join the ranks, the coalition will continue to bolster these fighters' abilities with training, weapons and equipment as we have already done for more than 3,000 members of the SAC,” he said.
And recently, he added, the coalition provided several Guardian armored vehicles to give the Syrian-Arab coalition increased survivability from ISIL's small arms and homemade bomb threats.
“We continue to deconflict strikes, air operations and, more recently, ground operations … and sharing targeting information,” Dorrian said of the fight in Syria. “We believe the coalition is more lethal against ISIL due to these unified efforts.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)