Air Force Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve tasked with engaging ISIS, briefed the Pentagon on Wednesday about continuing operations against ISIS around the globe.
Colonel Dorrian did not mince words, stating plainly that the ISIS fighters holding out in pockets of Iraq’s second largest city have “only two options” as coalition forces close in.
“The enemy is completely surrounded in West Mosul, and those who do not surrender to the Iraqi security forces will be killed there,” Dorrian told reporters after his briefing.
Dorrian went on to discuss the tactical advantages coalition forces have over their extremist opponents in Mosul. Iraqi security forces are advancing on ISIS positions as coalition air strikes continue to bombard enemy targets there and in the surrounding region to cut off intel and supply lines and prevent them from being reinforced. Meanwhile, the 16th Iraqi Army Division remains in East Mosul to maintain pressure on any remaining pockets of ISIS fighters and to prevent aid from reaching fortified ISIS positions in the west.
The colonel also addressed ISIS’ continued campaign of indirect fire into the Coalition held Eastern portion of the city from their remaining positions in the west. ISIS has been firing mortars and artillery into East Mosul since it was liberated by coalition forces, and recently they even began dropping improvised explosive devices from commercial drones onto Iraqi security forces and even civilian targets. The colonel agreed that these tactics make for effective propaganda, but dismissed their tactical value in the ongoing fight.
“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.
While addressing the fight against ISIS in Syria, Dorrian painted a similarly positive picture, indicating that Syrian Democratic Force, alongside Syrian Arab Coalition partners, cleared away another twenty-five miles of territory northeast of the key Syrian city, Raqqa. Since November 5th, Syrian and coalition forces have been working to isolate the city, and have thus far cleared more than 1,300 square miles of territory in the region despite “light to moderate” resistance from the enemy.
“Around Raqqa, coalition strikes continue taking a toll on the enemy capacity as strikes remove enemy fighters and resources,” he said before listing commonly targeted assets such as tunnels, weapons caches, command-and-control nodes and vehicle-borne explosive devices.
As for al Bab, the Syrian city that recently saw a Russian air strike accidentally kill three Turkish soldiers earlier this week, the prognosis is equally bleak for the terrorist organization. According to Dorrian, there have already been thirty-five individual coalition air strikes in the area since the first of the year, delivering over one hundred weapon systems to targets in and around the city.
“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 battlespace has become rather crowded in the area surrounding al Bab, as forces from within Syria and external nations close in on ISIS positions. Rebel groups backed by Turkey have found themselves within three kilometers of Russian-backed Syrian military forces. A tentative ceasefire between the groups was established late last year, but violence has still broken out sporadically in contested cities like Aleppo. As a result, Dorrian stated that Coalition officials will maintain the “deconfliction channel with the Russians.”
The colonel concluded by stating that coalition forces are continuing to engage ISIS in other areas as well. He then closed by reaffirming the coalition’s commitment to destroying ISIS anywhere they may be found, and adding that doing so must include crippling their flow of funds and means of communications.
“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.”
Image courtesy of the U.S. Army