Baghdad, Iraq– On Wednesday, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander in charge of leading the coalition campaign against ISIS, stated he believes Mosul and Raqqa will be retaken in the next six months. He indicated the next assault on western Mosul begins in the next few days. Additionally, the Syrian Democratic Forces recently announced they have entered into the “third phase” of the Raqqa operation.

On a tour north of Baghdad Wednesday, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said “within the next six months I think we’ll see both (the Mosul and Raqqa campaigns) conclude.”

Townsend also said he expected the fight for Mosul’s western half to begin in days.

Iraqi forces have retaken about half of Mosul — the country’s second largest city — since the operation was officially launched in October, following more than two years of coalition-led anti-IS operations around Iraq clearing supply lines and partially isolating the city. Last month Iraqi forces declared Mosul’s east “fully liberated” and have since largely paused the fight.

Townsend, who heads the U.S.-led coalition against IS, said Iraq’s military is still in the process of putting forces into place ahead of the push into western Mosul, but predicted operations would begin “in the next few days.”- AP

In the battle for Mosul, Iraqi Security Forces have already sustained heavy casualties but they now occupy everything east of the Tigris River. Liberating western Mosul may be difficult according to Lt. Gen Townsend due to “the older neighborhoods and narrower streets.” The Defense Department’s director of press operations, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis stated the ISIS fighters are now trapped in the remaining neighborhoods in western Mosul.

The fighters who remain in west Mosul face a choice between surrendering or annihilation, as there’s not a place to retreat,” Davis said.

It is nearly impossible to cross the Tigris River, which separates east and west Mosul, since access to the five bridges that spanned the river is closed off, Davis pointed out.