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Iraqi Forces Have Momentum in Fight for Mosul, Says OIR Commander

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2016 — Iraqi forces have momentum in the fight to retake Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the U.S. commander of Operation Inherent Resolve's ground troops said today.

"I am confident that the Iraqis are up to this task," Army Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, commander of Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command-Operation Inherent Resolve and the 101st Airborne Division, told reporters at the Pentagon today via teleconference from Baghdad.

In the next 72 hours, Iraqi forces are expected to continue toward Mosul and conduct more operations with the Kurds to clear territory in the push for the northern city, Volesky said.

"Tomorrow we'll be a lot closer to Mosul than we are today," he said, noting the concern is not on the speed of getting to the city, but on ensuring the Iraqi forces have the sustained combat power for the fight.

The Iraqi forces need to sustain their momentum and continue to put "unrelenting pressure on the enemy and then the enemy's going to break," Volesky said.

Iraqi forces launched the counterattack for Mosul Oct. 17.

Tough Fight Ahead

Volesky said he expects the fight will be harder the closer Iraqi forces get to the city, noting Mosul is a complex urban environment where ISIL has been for two years.

There are indications, he said, of obstacles such as T-walls, concrete walls, trenches and berms. He expects ISIL to give up territory around Mosul, but launch defensive attacks the closer Iraqi forces get to the city itself.

"I expect that they're going to go into an insurgency mode and they'll try to do these high-profile, spectacular attacks to draw attention away from the losses that they're suffering," Volesky said.

But, he said, ISIL leaders have been moving out of Mosul.

"There are fewer [ISIL] fighters today than there were yesterday and there'll be fewer tomorrow than there are today," the general said.

Volesky said ISIL is expected to fight inside the city to counter the technological advantages held by the Iraqi forces and the coalition. But, the Iraqi forces and the coalition supporting them have been successful in striking ISIL, he said.

US, Coalition Support Efforts

The general highlighted the role of the U.S. military in the coalition supporting Iraqi forces, noting that U.S. military advisers are at the division level and the operational command level in the tactical assembly areas. Advisers could also go out to the brigade level, but that probably won't be needed at this time, he said.

"This is an Iraqi-led operation, the Iraqis are in the lead and they're the ones fighting it," Volesky said. "We are here enabling, we're providing capabilities."

Those capabilities, he explained, include Apache helicopters that are flying at night supporting Iraqi forces' nighttime operations.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter @FerdinandoDoD)

Distribution channels: Military