By Lisa Ferdinando
Iraqi forces, backed by coalition strikes, are making gains in efforts to liberate western Mosul from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists, Defense Department spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters at the Pentagon Friday.
“The [Iraqis] have captured villages to the west of Mosul and they have penetrated the formal city limits from the south,” he said, adding, “We’ve seen some encouraging initial successes.”
About 75 percent of the Ghazlani military base southwest of Mosul has been secured, he said. In addition, Iraqi forces have a “strong foothold” on liberating the Mosul airport, Davis said. The Iraqis have cleared terrain to the south and west of Mosul, he said, gaining 24 square miles within the last day, for a total of 100 square miles since the offensive began five days ago.
The captain pointed out the total territory gained since Oct. 17, when the battle for Mosul began, is about 1,500 square miles. That figure includes recently cleared eastern Mosul, he said.
Tough Fight Expected
Resistance around western Mosul is “moderate,” Davis said, with the terrorists using improvised explosive devices and indirect fire to “harass and slow down” Iraqi forces. The terrorists have pulled back into west Mosul, he said, noting that the coalition expects a “very challenging fight,” since ISIS is entrenched in the area.
“That’s dense urban terrain, more dense than what we saw in east Mosul in a place where they are well-dug in,” the captain said.
Meanwhile, Iraqi forces continue defensive holding operations in eastern Mosul, he said, and the coalition continues to hit ISIS targets around Mosul. In the past 24 hours, Davis said, coalition forces conducted six strikes in a total of 80 engagements. Targets included ISIS tactical units, mortar systems, rocket launchers, anti-air artillery systems, fighting positions, vehicles and weapons caches, he said.
Coalition efforts are ongoing to support efforts to isolate the Syrian city of Raqqa, and operations for the city of Bab, Davis said.
Bab “does appear to be largely liberated,” he said, explaining the Turkish military and vetted Syrian opposition forces are conducting operations in the vicinity of the city.
Yesterday, the 112th day of operations to isolate Raqqa, Syrian Arab coalition forces conducted offensive operations northeast of that key city, Davis said.
Those efforts resulted in the clearing of large swaths of terrain along two axes and the taking of 67 square miles, he said, along with the liberation of several villages.
30-Day Plan to the President
The Pentagon will meet Monday’s deadline for the 30-day review that President Donald J. Trump ordered about the plan to fight ISIS, Davis said.
As the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, highlighted Thursday, the review is a “whole of government plan that deals holistically with ISIS,” he said.
Davis described the plan as a “framework for a broader plan.” However, he said, details of the strategy will remain private, explaining it is a “plan to attack an enemy and I don’t think we’re going to want to telegraph too much of it.”