Iraqi forces on Thursday are holding the runway at the Mosul Airport, a major advance in the liberation of Iraq’s second-largest city from the grip of ISIS.
After suffering 500 killed and 3,000 wounded in liberating the eastern half of Mosul from ISIS, Iraqi forces met only light resistance as they advanced through the outskirts of West Mosul. Despite the early success, the Iraqis are expecting West Mosul to be an even tougher fight once they enter the city. American advisers are with them, but Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, told his troops this is the Iraqis’ fight.
“Would it go faster if we did it ourselves? Well it might, but I’m pretty convinced the way we are approaching this campaign - working through our partners -- is kind of the right way of doing it,” Votel said. “They own this. We are helping them to fight but we are not doing the fighting for them.”
On Thursday, Votel was at an air base whose location we are not allowed to name for security reasons.
The aircraft here and at other bases which ring Iraq and Syria are dropping a slow steady rain of bombs on ISIS.
There are 2,000 pound bombs and 500 pound bombs about to be loaded on an F15 aircraft. There is now a bomb falling on northern Iraq and eastern Syria once every eight minutes.
That’s not counting 1,400 rounds fired by these rocket launchers which the army calls HIMARS. Cpt. Dick Ramos says they are accurate to within nine feet.
“The HIMARS, it does not miss,” Ramos says. “We tell it to shoot. It will hit the target.”
With all that firepower, it’s only a matter of time before Mosul and Raqqa are liberated, but that has been the history of American military operations since 9/11 -- win all the battles without ever winning the war against terrorism.