By Lisa Ferdinando
Terrorists with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the western part of Iraq’s second-largest city face two options: surrender or die, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve told Pentagon reporters Wednesday.
“The enemy is completely surrounded in West Mosul, and those who do not surrender to the Iraqi security forces will be killed there,” Air Force Col. John Dorrian said in a news briefing from Baghdad.
As Iraqi security forces prepare to liberate West Mosul, coalition strikes are pounding ISIL targets, including terrorists and their weapons caches and ISIL command-and-control sites, Dorrian said.
With eastern Mosul liberated, the 16th Iraqi Army Division is serving as a “hold force” there to maintain pressure on any remaining ISIL sleeper cells and prevent the terrorists from infiltrating the city again, the colonel explained.
Terrorists are targeting eastern Mosul with indirect fire, mortars and artillery fires, Dorrian said, causing damage and civilian casualties. They are also using commercially available drones to observe and drop explosives on Iraqi security force and civilian positions, he added.
“Although dangerous and effective as a propaganda tactic, this has limited operational effect on the battlefield and will not change the outcome or significantly delay the inevitable,” he said.
Targeting ISIL in Raqqa
As Syrian Democratic Forces and their partners work on the isolation of the key Syrian city of Raqqa, coalition strikes continue to take out ISIL targets, Dorrian said.
“Around Raqqa, coalition strikes continue taking a toll on the enemy capacity as strikes remove enemy fighters and resources,” he said, adding that recent targets include tunnels, weapons caches, command-and-control nodes and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices.
The Syrian Democratic Forces with their Syrian Arab Coalition partners yesterday cleared almost 25 square miles of territory northeast of Raqqa, he said. In total, more than 1,300 square miles of territory has been liberated since the operation to isolate Raqqa began Nov. 5, Dorrian said. The SDF and their partners have encountered “light to moderate” resistance as the enemy’s command-and-control system struggles to deal with multiple ongoing operations simultaneously, he added.
‘Deep Trouble’ for ISIL in Bab
Since Jan. 1, the coalition has conducted 35 strikes, delivering 101 weapons in or near the Syrian city of Bab to kill ISIL fighters and to destroy equipment, artillery, fighting positions, tunnels and command-and-control nodes, Dorrian said.
Coalition and Turkish military leaders continue coordinating operations in southwest Syria, he said.
“The enemy in Al Bab is in deep trouble, with Turkish military and partner forces converging on the city from the northwest, coalition forces pounding the enemy from the air, and regime forces approaching from the south,” he said.
The battle space is becoming more complicated as the forces converge around Bab, Dorrian said, adding that defense officials will maintain the “deconfliction channel with the Russians.”
Meanwhile, the coalition continues to fight ISIL on multiple fronts and by attacking their networks, the colonel said.
“Our commitment to completely destroying ISIL means that we must destroy their ability to communicate with leadership, their financial network and their ability to control terrain, particularly in population centers,” he told reporters.