CENTCOM based at MacDill played a roll in in the international plan to take back Mosul
MacDill based CENTCOM is monitoring U.S.-led international coalition, Iraqi forces that have fought their way Thursday into a sprawling military base outside of Mosul and onto the grounds of the city’s airport, taking control of the runway amid fierce exchanges of fire with Islamic State militants.
The multi-national forces are advancing on two fronts in their attempt to regain control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. The Islamic State group is reeling from attacks the U.S. led international coalitions.
On Sunday, after weeks of preparations, Iraqi forces officially launched the operation to take Mosul’s western half, with the Iraqi regular army and federal police forces taking part in the initial push. Since then, the military says they have retaken some 120 square kilometers – nearly 50 square miles – south of the city.
Thursday marked the first time the Iraqi special forces, which played a key role in securing the eastern half of the city, joined the fight for western Mosul.
The Iraqi federal police units, backed by regular army forces, entered the airport on Thursday morning, according to two police officials who said heavy clashes were underway hours later with IS militants hunkered down inside several airport buildings.
The officials said troops from the U.S.-led coalition were with the advancing forces, though they didn’t specify the nationalities of the foreign forces. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
Private broadcaster Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen aired live footage from the Mosul airport perimeter, showing a military helicopter buzzing overheard and firing at IS positions as gunfire rattled.
Separately, Iraqi special forces entered the Ghazlani military base next to the airport on the southern edge of the city, the spokesman of the Joint Military Operation Command, Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool told the AP.
However, the streets are older and narrower in the western section of the city, stretching west from the Tigris River that divides Mosul into the eastern and western half. The dense urban environment will likely force Iraqi soldiers to leave the relative safety of their armored vehicles. The presence of up to 750,000 civilians will also pose a challenge.
Mosul fell to IS in the summer of 2014, along with large swaths of northern and western Iraq. But the Sunni militant group has since consistently lost territory as the U.S.-led coalition proved to be critical for Iraqi government efforts to claw back territory lost to the extremists.
Some quotes used in the story came from ASSOCIATED PRESS