Secretary of Defense Ash Carter reiterated U.S. support for Iraqi forces in their fight against ISIS at a press briefing Monday, noting that the U.S. role in retaking the key city of Mosul will expand.
Carter joined Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, where they both reiterated the U.S. intention to sever ISIS’ ability to operate in Iraq. The two leaders pledged further U.S. support to the Iraqi government and reiterated the point that though the U.S. will be continue to play a role in anti-ISIS operations, the push on the key city of Mosul will be an Iraqi-lead endeavor.
“[We] are working with the Iraqi forces to prepare forces for the envelopment, and ultimately the seizure, of Mosul, absolutely,” said Carter, “Iraqi security forces … will be in the lead, but we will be enabling them. Will we do more to enable them as they continue to go north? Yes, we fully expect to do that.”
Dunford noted that the U.S. role in the mission will likely appear similar to the retaking of the city of Ramadi last month, which saw Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) take the leading role supported by U.S. air power and special operators. Given that Mosul, which is home to as many as 1.5 million people, is much larger than Ramadi, Dunford said that an “increase of quality and quantity” on the part of the U.S. would be required.
“We probably would do more in Mosul than Ramadi, just because of the order of magnitude of the operation up there in Mosul would indicate to me that we’d have more U.S. support in Mosul than we did in Ramadi,” said Dunford.
There has been speculation as to when the operation to retake Mosul would begin, but Dunford made it clear that “operations against Mosul have already started.” The goal, according to Dunford, is to isolate the city and cut it off from the de fact ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria. As for when the liberation of Mosul will occur, Dunford said he is not certain, but preparations will continue.
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