By Lisa Ferdinando
Iraqi forces are making significant progress in isolating Mosul, as part of efforts to liberate the northern Iraqi city from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the Defense Department’s press operations chief told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday.
Iraqi forces have been approaching the city from the east, the southeast and the north, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said, noting forces from two axes have already entered Mosul.
“The third, the northern axis, they’re now … essentially on the doorstep of Mosul city as well,” he said. “So you’ll see very soon here there will be three axes that are now inside of Mosul proper.”
Additionally, a group largely made up of Popular Mobilization Forces, along with Iraqi security forces, have retaken Tal Afar airfield. The forces have cut off a highway west of Tal Afar, Highway 47, the main artery connecting Mosul and Tal Afar all the way to Syria, Davis explained.
“This is significant,” he said. “This essentially means now that Mosul, everything east of this point, is isolated.”
Previously, there was free communication along Highway 1 and Highway 47 to connect Mosul with the rest of ISIL-controlled areas in Syria, according to Davis.
Other progress, he said, includes the coalition disabling four of the five bridges connecting east and west Mosul.
The targeting of the bridges was to cut off the flow of fresh fighters from the east into the west and stem the flow of car bombs, which were a problem for Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service forces as they came into eastern Mosul, Davis said.
The liberation of the city will take time, he noted.
“We have said all along this was going to be a very hard fight,” he said, explaining urban warfare requires a slow, methodical approach. “It’s not going to happen quickly,” he said.
ISIL casualties in Mosul have been significant, Davis said, adding, “They have lost many of their best fighters in eastern Mosul.”