With coalition support, Iraqi security forces are preparing for the assault to reclaim the key city of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman said Friday.
Speaking to Pentagon reporters via teleconference from Baghdad, Army Col. Christopher Garver said the Mosul assault will happen in the coming months on the timeline of the Iraqis, as they are the ones planning the operation.
“We’re supporting them throughout the operation, but we look for ways to accelerate the timeline,” he said, explaining that this includes speeding up the training for the Iraqi soldiers, and providing options to help them on the ground.
The battle for the city already has started, he said, noting that shaping operations have been going on for several months. “We have struck [ISIL] fighters, weapons, leaders, and financial assets with precision and lethality,” the colonel said.
The coalition has been training and equipping the Iraqi security forces who will conduct the assault, Garver said. Training also is underway for the police forces who will serve as the “hold force” throughout Iraq to prevent ISIL’s resurgence, he said.
“Along the way, we continue to explore options to accelerate the operation in order to meet the prime minister’s goal of seizing Mosul and defeating [ISIL] in Iraq in 2016,” he said.
The operations in Iraq are designed to cause ISIL to fight across the breadth and depth of the terrain it controls, Garver said, while preventing the terrorists from moving around the battlefield and reinforcing fighters.
Progress in Iraq
Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces are continuing the isolation phase of Fallujah and have encircled the town and surrounding urban sprawl, Garver said, and continue to improve defensive positions and prepare for future operations into Fallujah. The coalition supported the isolation phase by conducting 11 strikes against ISIL targets since Saturday, Garver said.
In Sinjar, the colonel said, the Iraqi forces to retain the area and the coalition continues to support operations with airstrikes against ISIL remnants near the city and along the east-west Highway 47. Since Feb. 27, the coalition has conducted 13 strikes against ISIL tactical units, rocket positions, mortar positions, a sniper position, and fighting positions, he added.
In the Hit and Haditha corridor in the Euphrates River Valley, the coalition continues to disrupt ISIL’s command and control and the flow of reinforcements and supplies inside the river valley, he said.
March 1 ISIL suicide attacks on an Iraqi army compound headquarters building in Haditha killed eight Iraqi soldiers and wounded eight others, Garver said. “In spite of these losses,” he added, “Iraqi army units and Sunni [Popular Mobilization Forces] continue operations in that area.”
Since the start of the offensive in Shadaddi last month, the Syrian Democratic Forces have gained more than 2,600 square kilometers, Garver said. Those gains bring the total amount of terrain the SDF controls in northern Syria to more than 20,000 square kilometers, he said.
While the SDF controls Shadaddi, Garver said, it is continuing to clear the ground, including pockets of resistance and has begun providing humanitarian assistance in the area of Shadaddi.
“The fight to seize and clear Shadaddi and the subsequent operations in Hasakah province have gone much faster than the SDF original timeline, but the fighting has been tough at times,” Garver said.
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter @FerdinandoDoD)