US General says ISIS terrorists in Mosul are badly organised
Baghdad forces nonetheless face a "very hard fight" in the battle for the city but they will prevail, US Air Force Brigadier General Matthew Isler said.
The Baghdad forces recaptured the eastern half of Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting, and launched an attack on districts lying west of the Tigris river on February 19.
Isler said ISIS’ operational leaders and foreign fighters were withdrawing from the battlefield, leaving local militants to fend off advances by Baghdad forces.
"We do see an intent for them to leave the city. I think that many of them are going to try to find a way out."
Though vastly outnumbered, the terrorists are putting up fierce resistance to hold on to their last major stronghold.
"At the tactical level it is a very hard fight," said Isler, deputy commander for the coalition’s air forces.
But, he said: "They’re not well-organised and well-integrated and as a result of that, Iraqi security forces are able to make significant progress each day."
Many of ISIS’ operational leaders were killed before Baghdad fighters began attacking the west, Isler said. There was little doubt that Iraqi security forces would eventually prevail against ISIS.
"The game is up," Isler said. "They have lost this fight and what you’re seeing is a delaying action."
Although Baghdad forces have effectively isolated Mosul by cutting the city off from the rest of its self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria, Isler said the terrorists were still able to travel to the town of Tel Afar to the west.
Coalition airstrikes in the run-up to the start of the attack on the west had made a significant impact on the course of the battle, Isler said. Many of ISIS operational leaders were killed before the local and Shi’ite militias began attacking the west.
"We took out their command and control, the Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED) and weapons caches. They’re using more indirect fire. It’s not precise."
Although ISIS car bombs still pose a major threat, Isler said fewer than one in 10 now reached their target.
Isler was speaking at the Qayyarah West Airfield, also known as "Q-West", which ISIS overran in the summer of 2014 after taking Mosul.
Coalition advisers have become more visible near the frontlines since December, when Iraqi forces entered an "operational refit" after progress in the east slowed.
Before that, coalition advisers were working with Iraqi forces at the division level, whereas now they are embedded at the brigade level making tactical decisions, Isler said.
"Forty miles north, you are witnessing the defeat of Daesh," said Isler, standing on a runway to which ISIS terrorists took a jackhammer before being driven out by Iraqi forces last year.
Tens of thousands of civilians fled from homes from the western part of the Mosul. Thousands of civilians reached new areas in Mosul dodging gunfire and walking for hours along muddy and rainswept roads as battles intensify between US-backed Baghdad forces and ISIS.