Operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have begun in Mosul, Iraq, and the United States will increase support to Iraqi forces, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today during a news briefing at the Pentagon.
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. and Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Iraqis will continue to lead efforts against the terror group in Iraq’s second-largest city.
Mosul is the largest city under ISIL control in either Syria or Iraq. With a population of around 665,000 people, the operation against the group will be much more complicated than the successful operation against ISIL in Ramadi late last year, Dunford said.
“Operations against Mosul have already started,” he said. “We’re isolating Mosul, even as we speak. The same thing with Raqqa,” the chairman added, referring to an ISIL-controlled city in Syria.
These shaping operations are both kinetic and cyber, Dunford said. Iraqi and free Syrian forces are working to cut the physical lines of communications between Raqqa -- the terror group’s “capital” -- and Mosul, he said. In addition, the coalition has launched cyberattacks against the group, seeking to virtually isolate the terrorists, the general said.
Coalition officials also are helping to train the Iraqi forces that will be used in the operation, the chairman said.
Operations in Mosul
The Iraqis have developed their plan of attack against ISIL in Mosul and have shared it with Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, who has briefed it to senior U.S. officials.
Dunford said American military officials are looking at the Iraqi plan to see where U.S. capabilities can work and how those capabilities can accelerate the process. “I, like the secretary, think we would do more in Mosul than Ramadi, just because of the order of magnitude of the operation in Mosul,” he said.
U.S. forces will apply the lessons learned from operations against ISIL in Ramadi to Mosul, Dunford said. “It isn’t fundamentally different than what we are doing in Ramadi; it’s doing the things we were doing in Ramadi better -- which is train Iraqi forces, provide combined arms and provide logistics support,” the chairman said.
The chairman also discussed operations in Afghanistan. Coalition forces continue to work with Afghan security forces to build the capabilities they will need to provide security and stability in the nation, Dunford said. These include building ministerial capacity, building corps-level capabilities, perfecting the intelligence enterprise, and enhancing Afghan special operations forces and the country’s aviation capabilities, the chairman said.
Some of the capabilities are not building as fast as the coalition -- or Dunford -- would like, he said. “The aviation capability is not developing as fast as we would’ve wanted to,” the chairman said. “And frankly, many of the Afghan forces were tied up, focused on supporting two major elections and a difficult political transition.”
Last year was a learning experience for both the Afghans and the coalition, he said. “I would say that this summer probably, we have lessons learned,” the chairman added. “One is [that] the Afghan forces, at the end of the day, were resilient.”
Moving forward, the coalition and the Afghan government will apply the lessons learned in 2015 to operations in 2016, he said. “It would certainly be premature now to talk about force levels or capabilities or those kinds of things,” Dunford said.
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