Baghdad and Washington – The U.S. Department of Defense has announced that the U.S. military is using AH-64 Apache helicopter gunships in its offensive against ISIS in Mosul.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters on Monday that the Boeing-manufactured helicopters are being used “with significant effect” in Mosul to target explosives-laden vehicles that ISIS is using to slow the Iraqi offensive.
“I can confirm that Apaches have been used with significant effect,” Cook said.
“We anticipate that this nimble and precise capability will continue to enable Iraqi progress in what we expect will be tough fighting to come,” he added.
Cook confirmed that this is not the first time Apaches are being operated in Iraq. However, few helicopters are being used, with officials suggesting that the number of choppers is in the single digits.
The use of Apaches in the battle reflects the risk taken by the Obama Administration by participating in the Mosul offensive. Apache attack helicopters fly at lower altitudes and slower speeds than fighter jets and bombers, making them much more vulnerable to enemy fire.
Iraqi security expert Fadel Abu Rghif told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Apaches are included in the Mosul battle based on a request from the joint Iraqi operations command. He added that the helicopters will be ready for battle within 48 hours of request.
According to Abu Rghif, Iraq owns a modern attack helicopter Mi-28NE named “Night Hunter” which is not less effective than the Apaches. But he explained that Apaches can provide more accurate Intel about targets and important information about the battle.
He also added that the introduction of such kind of helicopters into the offensive could end it sooner.
“We’ve known for weeks and months [Mosul’s liberation] is coming,” a senior State Department official told reporters during a Monday call. As such, the international community has “one of the best prepared responses to a humanitarian emergency that is expected that we have seen, certainly in a long time,” another senior State Department official added.
Both officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it is hard to predict when the battles will be over.
One official said that 33,000 people have been displaced since the operation in Mosul began. The number is lower than expected, while another said: “Iraqi and Kurdish forces have not yet reached the populous areas of Mosul city,” meaning the U.S. expects the worst to come.
The U.S. is planning for a “worst case scenario” with up to 700,000 people displaced in the wake of the Mosul operation.
An official explained that food for 1.25 million people has been pre-positioned in anticipation of Mosul’s liberation. In addition, medicine and medical equipment is stockpiled to serve 300,000 people with 100 ambulances at the ready with fifty trucks running per day in a scramble to pre-position supplies.
The State Department earlier said the U.S. and international partners had food ready for 2.3 million people.
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expects to have camps ready for 250,000 people displaced by the fighting. The international community has secured pledges of around $2 billion to support the Mosul operation.
Another official said that Washington is prepared for humanitarian relief. He mentioned that the U.S. has given $1.1 billion in aid to Iraq since 2014 and $513 million in 2016 alone.
Since ISIS began seizing land in Iraq in 2014, 3.2 million people have been forced from their homes and 10 million need assistance.
When asked about the coordination between Iraqi and Kurdish governments, one of the U.S. officials said that both governments are coordinating, “which is a good thing.”
He said Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi stated on several occasions that reconciliation with the Kurdish government is important.
The official added that the coalition and the U.S. are prepared for any chemical attack by ISIS.