BAGHDAD, July 11 (UPI) — Iraqi security forces seized the Qayyarah Air Base away from Islamic State control as part of the offensive to retake the city of Mosul, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter confirmed.
The air base will be used as a logistics and air hub by both Iraqi and U.S. troops. The offensive to seize the Qayyarah Air Base began Saturday morning and the base was captured by midday. U.S. troops carried out a brief site survey on Sunday.
The air base, also known as Qayyarah Airfield West, is about 25 miles south of Mosul and 20 miles west of the town of Qayyarah. The base has one runway long enough to fly heavy cargo planes.
Carter arrived in Iraq on Monday to meet with U.S. military commanders and Iraqi officials. Carter said that capturing the air base will help the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State trap the militants in Mosul between Iraqi security forces traveling from the south and Kurdish Peshmerga forces moving in from the north.
The Islamic State has lost about 12 percent of the territory it controlled in Iraq and Syria within the first half of 2016, according to IHS. The Islamic State’s self-proclaimed “caliphate” decreased to about 26,400 square miles, down from 30,100 square miles.
The loss of territory has led the militant movement to increase attacks on civilian targets in the Middle East and Europe, IHS said in a statement — warning that attacks are likely to continue.
“As the Islamic State’s caliphate shrinks and it becomes increasingly clear that its governance project is failing, the group is re-prioritizing insurgency,” Columb Strack, a senior analyst at IHS, said in a statement. “As a result, we unfortunately expect an increase in mass casualty attacks and sabotage of economic infrastructure, across Iraq and Syria, and further afield, including Europe.”
Pentagon officials on Sunday confirmed the authenticity of a video showing the Iraqi security forces taken from a helicopter after they seized the air base.
— Warfare Worldwide (@WarfareWW) July 9, 2016