Erbil, Iraq – The government of Iraq along with the spokesperson for the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) confirmed on late Thursday that elements of the Iraqi Special Forces with U.S. Special Forces ‘advisors’ in direct support of the specialized Iraqi unit have retaken large portions of the Mosul International Airport from Islamic State fighters, which have been entrenched within the airport since 2014. Supported by U.S. close air support the coalition of Iraqi Rapid Reaction forces, federal police, and elements of the U.S. ‘Green Beret’ trained and advised Iraqi Counter Terrorism Force (ICTF) executed a ‘three-pronged attack’ against ISIS strongholds along three different fronts around the Mosul airport.
As the attack collapsed onto buildings within the airport, fighters from the Islamic State offered little resistance and fled from their positions to several larger buildings and dug in for their final showdown. Elements of the ICTF along with their U.S. Special Forces advisors advanced on the remaining Islamic State fighters and called in U.S. close air support along with Iraqi Army attack helicopters to pound the ISIS fighters into submission. As Iraqi helicopters circled above firing down onto Daesh within the Ghazlani military base in the southwestern portion of the airport complex, an Iraqi Special Forces commander reported that “Daesh [IS] resistance is not inconsiderable, but they are trying to save their strength for inside the city.” A commander from the Iraqi Rapid Reaction forces claimed that the Iraqi coalition also successfully captured a rather large weapons cache within an airport warehouse along with an Islamic State headquarters and barracks. The reaction force commander went on to give thanks for the minimal loss of life by his troops and the operations rapid success stating: “Right now, thank God, we’re inside Mosul airport and in front of its terminal. Our troops are liberating it.”
Since early February reports of an undisclosed number of U.S. Special Forces, most likely the U.S. Army’s elite Green Berets, have returned to northern Iraq to embed with Iraq’s Green Beret-trained elite counter terror commandos, known as the Iraq Counter Terrorism Force, or ICTF. The mission of these Special Forces ‘advisors’ is to provide direct action front line support via close air support. And yes, these Special Forces advisors have been in direct gun fights with Daesh. Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of CJTF-Operation Inherent Resolve in a statement earlier this week stated: “It is true that we are operating closer and deeper into Iraqi formations. We adjusted our posture during the east Mosul fight, and we embedded advisors a bit farther down into the formation.”
When prodded in a press briefing in regards to whether Washington has authorized the U.S. Special Forces teams in northern Iraq to actively engage Islamic State fighters, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, Col. John Dorrian simply stated that in recent weeks “they [U.S. Special Forces advisors] have gotten so close to the front that they have come under attack near Mosul and returned fire.” Col Dorrian went on to explain what the mission’s definition of ‘under attack’ means and clearly confirming that U.S. Special Forces have in fact been in firefights in recent weeks by saying: “When someone is shooting at you that is combat. Yes. That has happened.”
The Islamic State in Mosul is clearly on its heels as the combined U.S.-backed Iraqi Army offensive into Western Mosul is shaping up to be a swift victory for the coalition. However, make no mistake, U.S. Special Operations troops are on the front lines and are actively engaging ISIS. This is the exact mission set that the U.S. Army’s elite Green Berets were trained to execute. It may not technically be ‘boots on ground’, but there sure are some comfortable hiking boots stomping around the Ninevah region taking the fight to Daesh.
Feature Image: Voices of America