ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraqi and coalition forces have seen a reduction in the effectiveness of ISIS’ deadly use of suicide car bombs and vehicle-born improvised explosive devices (IEDs) after adapting their tactics and taking measures, a coalition commander said.
The coalition disabled four of the five bridges in Mosul and “cratered” roads used by ISIS with their VBIEDs. “This combination of the two tactics seems to be reducing the number of VBIEDs that the enemy has been able to use,” said Maj. Gen. Rupert Jones, Deputy Commander for Combined Joint Task Force for Operation Inherent Resolve, speaking to reporters on Wednesday.
Though they had hoped to leave the bridges intact as they are of fundamental importance to the economy of Mosul, it was clear ISIS was using them to transport weapons and fighters between east and west in the city, Jones detailed. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, therefore, made the decision to target the bridges, which was done by coalition airstrikes that disabled them without destroying them.
They have also targeted the roads, “cratering” them to make them impassable to ISIS’ VBIEDs.
As a result of these measures, there has been a reduction in the number of suicide attacks on Iraqi forces, Jones confirmed.
When asked about the coalition’s possible support for the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi now that they have been given official recognition, Jones said the legislation does not change the coalition’s support for the Iraqi Security Forces.
“We are here to support the government of Iraq in their plan to defeat Daesh in Mosul, in Tal Afar, in other areas. And as you know, we provide support to the Iraqi Security Forces. And we’ll provide the necessary support to Prime Minister Abadi’s plan. So from our perspective, this bit of legislation I don’t think fundamentally changes how we do our business.”
“Our role is very much to support the government of Iraq,” he stressed, noting that the Shiite force was receiving orders from Abadi and was abiding by those orders.
While noting that the military campaign is on target timewise, Jones stressed that protection of civilians remains a top priority and the fight for the city “is not a race, so patience is required.”
“My sense is that the enemy are beginning to struggle,” he said but noted that retaking such a heavily populated and fortified city will not happen quickly.
In the fight against ISIS in Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) “continues to prove that they are quite capable of defeating Daesh wherever they encounter them on the battlefield,” said Jones.
He commended the diverse force for setting up councils for local governance as they liberate areas on the approach to Raqqa.
The SDF have recaptured some 700 square kilometres of territory from ISIS who have put up “light to moderate resistance.” They are now less than 30 kilometres from the city in the isolation phase of the campaign.
There is no finalized plan yet for the taking of the city, Jones said. For now, the SDF are the forces capable of isolating the city. The coalition remains in dialogue with all their partners, including Turkey, to find “most effective force to retake Raqqa. And we are open to options for that.”