While Iraqi forces have turned their attention to the western half of Mosul, ISIS’ last stronghold in the country, strikes against the terrorist group have continued elsewhere.
With a January 21 strike near Ar Rutbah, in the western part of Iraq’s Anbar province, US-led coalition aircraft knocked out an ISIS vehicle. You can see footage of the strike below.
The January 21 strike near Ar Rutbah was one of six conducted that day in Iraq. According to the Operation Inherent Resolve Facebook page, which posted a clip of the strike, the target was a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, VBIED, or a car bomb often detonated by a suicide bomber.
ISIS has made extensive use of VBIED’s throughout the campaign in Mosul.
However, in a release the day after the strike, US military officials identified the target as a tactical vehicle, destroyed along with two weapons caches and a mortar.
That same day, two coalition airstrikes near Mosul engaged two ISIS tactical units, destroyed a VBIED factory, a VBIED, a tank, three fighting positions, and a vehicle.
Fighting in northern Iraq has revolved around Mosul in recent months, as Iraqi forces retook the eastern half of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, from ISIS militants in late January, a little over three months after the campaign against ISIS in the city started.
Now Iraqi forces and their allies have turned their attention to western Mosul.
The west is home to some of the oldest buildings in the city, and it is honeycombed by narrow streets and alleyways that will preclude the use of armoured vehicles and tanks.
Complicating the task are thousands of civilians who remain in the city. Fighting in Mosul has already taken a heavy toll on the civilian population.
Advancing on the western portion of the city will be made more difficult by the absence of bridges across the Tigris River, which roughly divides Mosul roughly in half.
There were five bridges spanning the Tigris, but most of them have been destroyed by coalition forces.
Western Mosul is a “complicated environment,” US Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, who commands coalition ground forces in Iraq, told The Associated Press in January. “West Mosul will be as tough as east Mosul, and from our view even tougher.”
Despite the challenges, Iraq’s partners appear to be optimistic.
US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, a top US commander on the ground in Iraq, told the AP this week that “within the next six months I think we’ll see both (the Mosul and Raqqa campaigns) conclude.” Townsend also said operations in western Mosul should start “in the next few days.”
On Wednesday, the Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman tweeted: “The enemy is completely surrounded in West Mosul, and those who do not surrender to Iraqi Security Forces will be killed there.”
While ISIS’ prospects in its Iraqi and Syrian strongholds may be grim, the group is unlikely to disappear soon. The terror group has hailed US President Donald Trump’s aggressive stance toward immigration from Muslim-majority countries as an affirmation of their worldview, calling his restrictions “the blessed ban.”
The group is also likely to continue an insurgent campaign in Iraq and elsewhere. On Wednesday, suspected ISIS gunmen killed six Red Cross workers delivering aid in northern Afghanistan.