The U.S. Army unleashed the famed AH 64 Apache gunships in support for the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces in the battle for Mosul against the Islamic State (ISIS); 101st Airborne Division commander and commander of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command-Operation Inherent Resolve, U.S. Army Major General Gary Volesky confirmed the gunships have entered the battle for Mosul on Wednesday.
Maj. Gen. Volesky said of the Apache gunships,
“They’ve been flying at night, supporting any nighttime operations that the Iraqis are doing. That platform has a lot of capability to see a long range at night and use its weapons system in a stand-off capacity to strike targets, and that’s what they’re doing.”
The U.S. military has determined that ISIS could quickly change into an insurgent group and launch “high profile” attacks if driven from Mosul, according to Maj. Gen. Volesky. He said,
“[ISIS] will try to do these high profile spectacular attacks. We’ve seen them do that before. One of the things that I’m worried about as well is, you know, the enemy tries a spectacular attack, tries to figure out how to retain some ground in the Euphrates River Valley and causes the attention of the government of Iraq to come back south and that delays or stalls the momentum going forward.”
In previous campaigns to retake Ramadi and Fallujah in the Anbar province, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had barred the use of Apache gunships, which left the question of their use unanswered in the Mosul offensive up until just a few days before the push into Mosul by Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
Maj. Gen. Volesky said that ISIS is using mortars and suicide car bombers as a means to launch attacks and they’re being met by U.S. aircraft that are neutralizing ISIS fighters before they have a chance to hit the Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces. He also stated that ISIS is using suicide bombers in vehicles to provide cover for ISIS’ retreat; something the general had not seen ISIS do before,
“[W]hich really kind of reinforces the point that they are completely on the defensive and are just trying to hold on. They’re burning buildings, which we assess to be their headquarters, and a lot of them are moving back into Mosul proper.”
ISIS has nothing in their current arsenal that could even possibly match the firepower of the AH 64 Apache gunships and given their sustained defensive posture and retreat, the gunships will back them further into a corner; it’s speculated that the battle for Mosul won’t end soon due to ISIS having two years to dig in and reinforce positions as well as setting booby traps and bombs throughout the city of Mosul.