The U.S.-backed Iraqi Security Forces are locked in a bitter street-by-street fight in Mosul, as the Islamic State continues to mount massive suicide and IED attacks.
The campaign for Mosul has dragged on for more than two months. Pentagon Spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters Tuesday the Pentagon only estimates 15-20% of the city has been retaken. To make matters worse, the remaining areas of the city to be retaken are densely populated by civilians, rendering U.S. airpower ineffective.
“I have seen things in Mosul that I will never forget my whole life. I have seen entire families get killed because of ISIS car bombs,” one Iraqi soldier lamented to The New York Times. The Mosul campaign depends heavily on U.S.-trained elite counter-terrorism fighters known as “The Golden Division.” Officials within U.S. Central Command worried to Politico that the Golden Division is suffering “horrific” daily casualties, that could all but destroy it by the end of the battle.
ISIS seized the city of Mosul in 2014 and spent the last two years heavily entrenching themselves in the city. Throughout their occupation, the group reportedly mounted an “industrial” weapons production effort to mine the entire city. ISIS bolsters its defenses by repeatedly deploying suicide bombers and specially made car bombs, that are shaped to inflict maximum damage on the advancing Iraqi troops.
The United Nations estimates nearly 1 million civilians remain inside the city of Mosul, which ISIS repeatedly uses as human shields or to cover their own operations. “They have so many snipers hiding in the houses among civilians, and also many car bombs. Our losses in this battle cannot be compared with the other battles,” a golden division commander told TheNYT.
“If there were no civilians, we’d just burn it all,” an Iraqi counter-terrorism commander told The Washington Post in mid-November. ISIS floods the streets with civilians when his forces enter, stopping the deployment of heavy munitions, he elaborated. “I couldn’t bomb with artillery or tanks, or heavy weapons. I said, ‘We can’t do anything.”
“We are amid hell. We don’t know when we will be bombed, or if ISIS will return to kill us,” a Mosul civilian cried.
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