The Iraqi ground effort to wrest away control of the country’s second-biggest city, Mosul, from ISIS has dragged on since mid-October, and it looks set to continue into the new year.
Throughout the fight, Iraqi forces and their partners in the Kurdish peshmerga and Shiite militias have been assisted by air support from the US-led coalition of more than 60 countries.
The coalition has mounted numerous strikes on ISIS positions around Mosul, including a November 10 strike that targeted an ISIS headquarters building near the city, a clip of which you can see below.
The November 10 strike came during a three-day period that saw 19 airstrikes around Mosul, targeting ISIS-held buildings, vehicles, weapons systems, tunnels, fighting positions, and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, or VBIEDs, which ISIS has made extensive and devastating use of during the Mosul campaign.
The operation to retake Mosul kicked off on October 17, with Iraqi forces targeting ISIS fighters and their positions around the city. But since the fight has moved into the city itself, progress has slowed, as streets crowded with civilians and fierce ISIS resistance have made Mosul a treacherous battleground.
In recent days, unfavorable weather has grounded coalition aircraft, creating an opportunity for the terror group. ISIS militants, who still hold about three-quarters of the city, launched counterattacks to the east, south, and west late last week. Their efforts gained some ground, but Iraqi officials said it would be short-lived.
“We withdraw to avoid civilian losses and then regain control. They can’t hold territory for long,” an Iraqi military source told Reuters.
- Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjani
With the Iraqi winter setting in however, civilians stuck in the city have grown more despondent, squeezed by shortages and the ever present violence.
ISIS “still controls our neighborhood, and the Iraqi forces have not taken a single step forward in three weeks. We’re in despair,” a resident in Mosul’s southeastern district of Intisar, where the army’s Ninth Armored Division has struggled to make gains, told Reuters by phone.
- Reuters/Mohammed Salem
“My family and I have been sleeping under the concrete stairs in our house for a month now, afraid of the random bombardment between the Iraqi forces and the Daesh elements,” the source said, referring to ISIS by an Arabic name.
The US has worked to provide support in the face of ISIS’ effective resistance, specifically targeting VBIEDs and the factories making them. ISIS has deployed hundreds of such weapons in the Mosul’s tight confines.
The US Air Force has also said it has developed a way to counter drone bombs employed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Monday that it was “possible” to retake the city before US President-elect Donald Trump takes office on January 20, but he stressed that it would be a “tough fight.”
Carter has also cautioned that US forces would need to remain in Iraq well after ISIS is defeated.
You can see the full video of the airstrike below.