The size of Iraq’s second-largest city will make the liberation of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s two-year grip the largest mission Iraqi security forces have yet undertaken against the enemy, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve told Pentagon reporters today.
Providing an update on the counter-ISIL effort in Iraq and Syria by teleconference from Baghdad, Air Force Col. John L. Dorrian said Mosul’s size is on the “order of magnitude larger than the liberation battles in cities such as Ramadi, Fallujah and Sharqat.”
As shaping operations and planning along the Tigris River Valley to liberate the city are underway, the Iraqi government is working with the United Nations and nongovernment organizations to plan for people fleeing Mosul when the fighting begins, Dorrian said. The Iraqi government is directing 20 campsites for displaced people and is working with the U.N. and other organizations to pre-position resources to take care of them, he added.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has informed the residents of Mosul of the pending liberation by radio address, and he has asked residents to cooperate with security forces, Dorrian said.
Iraqi Forces Remove ISIL from Area in Euphrates Valley
Elsewhere in Iraq, Iraqi forces have attacked ISIL fighters in the Euphrates River Valley on multiple fronts to remove them from the eastern side of the river, north and south of Hit, the colonel said. Within the past few days, the Iraqi forces completed clearance operations along the Euphrates Valley, connecting their northern and southern forward battle lines with about 140 miles of contiguous cleared area between Baghdad and Haditha, he added.
Clearing this area takes pressure off the Iraqi forces to defend multiple fronts in the valley, and it helps to protect Ramadi, Fallujah and Baghdad from ISIL attacks as the battle for Mosul is waged, Dorrian explained.
That operation also increases pressure on ISIL, which has shown significant signs that its supply shortages and the dismantling of its command and control across Iraq are leaving them incapable of stopping the Iraqi forces from advancing, he said.
“Continuing to pressure the enemy along the Euphrates River Valley is very important to the overall security of Iraq,” Dorrian said, “and we'll continue a relentless campaign of strikes to keep the enemy on the back foot as the [Iraqi forces continue clearing operations].”
Syria Fight Progresses, Manbij Residents Return
Progress against ISIL forces in Syria also is evident along the Mara line in the north, as NATO ally Turkey and coalition forces continue advise-and-assist missions with local forces, Dorrian said. “Since the start of Operation Noble Lance, these partnered forces have liberated 254 square kilometers of ground, to include the people in 37 villages in that area,” he added.
And since Manbij was liberated in mid-August, displaced residents are returning to the city in very large numbers, Dorrian said. About 70,000 people now reside in Manbij while efforts continue to remove ISIL booby traps and homemade bombs, the colonel told reporters, although 125,000 lived in Manbij before the enemy invaded. More than 3,000 families have benefited from humanitarian aid, he added.
Plans Outline Defeating ISIL Drones
The Inherent Resolve spokesman said reports show ISIL has used commercial, “off-the shelf” drones for surveillance, and in some cases, to deliver explosives. While not a new ISIL tactic, Dorrian said, the coalition is working the drone issue with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization and the Army, among others.
“To supplement the capabilities already in theater, a system called Drone Defender and additional advanced systems have been sent that are capable of detecting, identifying, tracking and defeating [unmanned aircraft systems] threats,” he said.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)