Airstrikes mark new IS offensive
An increase i n airstrikes in northern Iraq this week is the beginning of an effort to disrupt Islamic State (IS) supply lines ahead of an operation to take back the city from militants.
Coalition airstrikes have pounded at least two dozen locations around Mosul, destroying dozens of vehicles, buildings, fighting positions and insurgent units.
The airstrikes, said one senior US military official, are the start of a new phase, and military leaders are watching to see how IS militants respond as their supply and communications lines dry up.
Meanwhile, at the Pentagon yesterday Rear Admiral John Kirby said US efforts to train Iraqi forces and moderate Syrian rebels to fight IS militants are moving forward, even as insurgents still control about 21,000 square miles of Iraq.
The Pentagon press secretary laid out details and data aimed at showing the progress the coalition has made since it began airstrikes against the insurgents in Iraq last August.
He said about 270 square miles in Iraq have been regained from militants, mostly by Kurdish forces in the north.
He cautioned that control of land across the country will continually change over time, and it will be a long struggle.
"I think we all recognise that it's a small percentage of the total right now. But we're only six, seven months into this thing, too," he said.
"ISIL had a big head start on us, coming into the summer. A pretty aggressive first quarter for those guys."
US officials have said the coalition has stalled the momentum of the IS militants, and Rear Admiral Kirby said yesterday that about 6,000 of the fighters have been killed, according to battle damage assessment of the airstrikes.
US officials estimate there were between 20,000 and about 30,000 insurgent fighters, including core IS militants and other aligned militias.
Rear Admiral said IS is on the defensive, struggling to get supplies and financing and having difficulties replacing destroyed weapons and machinery.
"While we're seeing all that, we're also mindful that they're still a potent force inside Iraq and in Syria. And that this is going to continue to take some time," he said.