WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 (UPI) — The United States has increased its deployed forces by more than 500 troops to assist Iraqi security forces in the operation to claim Mosul from Islamic State control.
Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for the United States’ Operation Inherent Resolve mission against the Islamic State, on Thursday said the increase in deployed troops is to help Iraq seize the Islamic State’s Iraqi stronghold, Mosul — where he estimates there are up to 4,500 IS militants remaining.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi both hope to seize Mosul before the year’s end, but Dorrian said the operation is “a very tough battle.” The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh, captured Mosul as part of a land grab in 2014 that saw to the militant group’s peak in terms of land acquisition.
“The Mosul liberation battle … is five to six times as large as Ramadi in both area and in the number of people that are there. So there are going to be a lot of planning considerations and a lot of troops that have to be trained in order to do that,” Dorrian said during a press briefing. “We expect a very tough fight because the Daesh have been in that area for more than two years, so they’ve had a chance to build intricate defenses. So we’re going to try to meet the Iraqi timeline.”
The battle to directly capture Mosul has been held off, though Iraqi security forces, aided by the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition, have recaptured surrounding areas and targeted IS positions for months.
“Prime Minister Abadi has come out and said that he would like to get this done within the year, and we are going to be at the Iraqi security force’s side and be there to try to help pursue that,” Dorrian said.
Dorrian said Iraqi security forces are leading the battle for Mosul and that the United States’ role is to train and assist the soldiers, with the aid of airstrikes and special operations missions.
“There’s a tremendous amount of work … going on for training. There’s a tremendous amount of work going on to set conditions, including the logistics detail that would be required in order to go after Mosul,” Dorrian said. “And then we continue to hammer the enemy with strikes, including both artillery and airstrikes.”