On Sunday, Senior U.S. Military Commander Brig. Gen. Rick Uribe issued praise to Iraqi forces fighting to liberate the city of Mosul from ISIS. Uribe told the Associated Press that the Iraqi forces are “at their peak” and that he believes they will be able to drive ISIS fighters from the city in just three months, a claim that was confirmed by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
The northern Iraqi city of Mosul is one of the last remaining ISIS strongholds in the area. The initial push to reclaim the city and surrounding area began in mid-October. The initial push to reclaim the surrounding area was quick but was followed by significantly slower progress as Iraqi and Kurdish forces approached the city limits. Uribe told reporters that this lull in progress was expected, stating “We are on pretty close to where we want to be.”
Most of the fighting against ISIS within the city limits is being done by Iraqi Special Forces, known as the Counter Terrorism Service. Uribe claims that the Iraqis are “at their peak” due to their ability to “continue to improve because of the lessons they are learning on a daily basis.”
Despite their ability to overcome challenges and adapt to situations as they develop Uribe claims that their biggest challenge has yet to come. Iraqi forces have reclaimed much of the city’s eastern, southern, and northern sectors. However, Uribe states that crossing to the west bank of the Tigris River will have a significant impact on the battle.
Once the Tigris is crossed the battle will become “dismounted” according to Uribe. He stated that “it will be a different fight and they will adjust as they go from the east to the west. They are already planning these adjustments.”
According to Uribe, the streets on the West side of the Tigris are extremely narrow so that not even a vehicle can safely pass. Many of the bridges that cross the Tigris have also been structurally damaged, but not destroyed, by coalition forces to slow the movement of ISIS forces and supplies within the city, further hampering Iraqi forces ability to penetrate the western sector. Uribe commented on the status of the bridges, saying that they’re “not destroyed, they are only degraded. They will be fixed by the Iraqis fairly quickly once they retake the city,”
Once the city is liberated, U.S. coalition forces hope that the approximate one million civilians still residing in the city will be able to repair the damaged infrastructure.