|Arthur Dominic Villasanta |||Sep 29, 2016 12:55 AM EDT|
(Photo : USAF) U.S. air strike softening up Mosul
The United States will deploy 600 more of its soldiers to Iraq to support the Iraqi army's forthcoming offensive against the city of Mosul, the last city in Iraq held by ISIL, in October.
President Barack Obama authorized the reinforcements expected to help with logistics as well as providing intelligence for Iraqi security forces in the fight for Mosul. The U.S. has repeatedly said its soldiers will not engage in combat although some doubt if this stricture applies to U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOFs) whose numbers aren't included in the official tally of U.S. forces in Iraq.
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At the end of July, there were officially 4,647 service members in Iraq, excluding SOFs. The U.S. had over 130,000 service members in Iraq a decade ago. The additional 600 men will bring the total today to over 5,100.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that Iraqi forces will be ready to recapture Mosul by early October.
The Americans will assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces that will lead the fight to retake Mosul and ISIL's shrinking territory in Iraq.
American attack aircraft are currently softening up Mosul with almost daily air strikes against ISIL positions and troop concentrations.
Attempts by ISIL fighters trapped in the Iraqi desert city of Mosul to shuffle men and supplies between the two halves of the city bisected by the Tigris River has led to a record number of ISIL-operated boats of its ragtag "navy" being sunk by American and allied aircraft.
The U.S. military is planning an offensive against Mosul, a Sunni city, in stages. In early October, the Iraqi Army and its militia allies will retake northern Nineveh province from ISIL with the final battle in Mosul at month-end. Experts believe the rising number of aerial attacks supports the upcoming effort by the U.S. and Iraq to retake Mosul.
One military analyst said ISIL is going to try and move fighters up and down the river when it defends Mosul. The stepped-up allied campaign to destroy any boat plying the Tigris seeks to prevent ISIL from using the river to deploy its forces.
The massing of U.S., Iraqi and militia forces for the attack on Mosul continues. This September, the number of US troops in Iraq rose from 4,000 to 4,460 in preparation for the campaign against Mosul.
Mosul had a population of two million in its metropolitan area before ISIL seized the city in June 2014. Mosul is probably defended by 4,000 ISIL fighters, who are turning the city into a killing zone packed with IEDs and booby traps.
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