Noose tightens on ISIS in Mosul
Despite what we heard yesterday, the battle for Mosul is progressing nicely, according to CBS News. The Kurds are taking smaller towns north of the Iraqi city which will put them within shouting distance of Mosul soon;
two ISIS drones approached in the air. They were small, and it’s not clear whether they were armed, but the Kurdish troops shot them down quickly. Earlier this month, two Kurdish fighters were killed by an ISIS drone loaded with explosives.
Meanwhile, elite Iraqi special forces troops moved into position Thursday to the east of Mosul. They’re fighting to recapture several Christian towns and villages along the main road into the city. The special forces managed to enter the ancient Christian enclave of Bartella after a clashes with militants and several suicide truck bombs.
On Wednesday, an Iraqi officer bragged to CBS News that they would be inside Mosul within a matter of hours – a much faster approach to the city where there are thought to be less than 5,000 ISIS militants still holding out.
According to BBC, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is “upbeat” about the operation;
The Iraqi prime minister made his comments via video-link to an international meeting in Paris on the future of Mosul.
“The forces are pushing towards the town more quickly than we thought and more quickly than we had programmed in our campaign plan,” he said.
He hailed co-operation between the army and Kurdish troops, saying they were “fighting harmoniously together” to free Iraqi territory from IS.
The Army Times reports that Apache gunships have entered the fray;
[Major General Gary Volesky, commander of U.S. and coalition land forces in Iraq], speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via video link from his headquarters in Baghdad, also disclosed that U.S. Army Apache helicopters have entered the battle for Mosul. He declined to provide specifics, citing the need to preserve operational security, but said they have been striking Islamic State targets at night. The mere presence of the Apaches on the battlefield has been a confidence booster for Iraqi soldiers, he said.
The Apaches, he said, can “see a long range at night” and strike targets from a great distance. “That’s what they’re doing,” he said.
Volesky said some Islamic State forces already are giving up their positions in the outskirts of Mosul and pulling back into the city. He said he expects this trend to continue. They are then likely to attempt to block the entry of Iraqi forces into the city, using a “full-fledged conventional defense.”