Makhmour – U.S. forces decided to increase its participation in the Mosul offensive, a senior commander said on Friday.
The U.S. forces assisting Iraqi troops to retake Mosul from ISIS will increase the number of troops, which could accelerate the two month-old campaign which has slackened after quick initial advances, according to the commander.
Over 5,000 American soldier are deployed in Iraq as part of an international coalition that is advising local forces in an attempt to recapture third of the country that has been under extremists control since 2014.
Initially, coalition advisors were concentrated at a high-level headquarters in Baghdad, but they have been distributed over the past two years to multiple locations to stay near advancing troops.
Now, as Iraqi forces controlling about a quarter of Mosul proceed deeper into the northern city and encounter fierce counter-attacks that render progress slow and punishing, U.S. troops are stepping up their involvement.
U.S. Army Colonel Brett G. Sylvia said that the U.S. forces are deepening their integration with the Iraqi forces.
“We are now pushing that into more of the Iraqi formations pushing forward, some formations that we haven’t partnered with in the past where we are now partnering with them,” he added.
During a rare interview at the U.S. section of a base for Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Makhmour, 75 km (47 miles) southeast of Mosul, the combat brigade commander didn’t answer whether his troops were operating inside Mosul or not.
But Sylvia, who commands the 1,700-strong Task Force Strike, said that the level of integration is about small special operations teams embedding with larger local forces to help build capacity.
He declared: “We have always had opportunities to work side-by-side, but we have never been embedded to this degree,” and went on to say: “that was always a smaller niche mission. Well, this is our mission now and it is big and we are embedded inside their formations.”
Sylvia described the changes “a natural progression” of the U.S. mission, which is much narrower than the nine-year U.S. occupation in Iraq which followed the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein when up to 170,000 troops were deployed.
The international coalition, which includes European and Arab allies, has launched so far thousands of air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and neighbor Syria, and trained tens of thousands of Iraqi forces since 2014. Separately, U.S. commandos have launched raids against senior ISIS commanders.
A top U.S. general informed Reuters last week that Iraqi forces in Mosul had entered a planned operational refit, the first significant pause of the campaign which was launched on Oct. 17.
But Sylvia said he believes the operation is approaching a “tipping point” in the eastern side of the city.
“When that momentum has the appearance of irreversibility then I think that we’ll see a much more rapid seizure and clearance that occurs on the east side … we’re not (there yet)”, he added.
Meanwhile, Iraqi forces heavily bombed new neighborhoods in the left side of Mosul. General Adel Thamer of Counter Terrorism Services (CTS) told German news agency that the CTS forces began attacking several areas in the eastern and northern axes.
The commander expected that these areas will soon be under the control of the Iraqi army and predicted that an official announcement will be made as of the new year.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said on Saturday: “Our main goal is to liberate the people, and we will achieve the victory soon.
Speaking at the Youth Arab Summit hosted by the Iraqi Youth Council in Baghdad, the prime minister said: “While we are liberating our homeland, we are reinstating stability and demining the areas to restore liberated areas for the citizens’ return. “