Ash Carter On Mosul
Statement by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on Iraqi Announ
Published on October 17, 2016
As of now...
Iraq's military says it has inflicted "heavy losses of life and equipment" on ISIS in a district southeast of Mosul, as Iraqi-led forces close in on the city in the long-awaited battle to recapture it from the terror group.
Hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the beginning of the offensive, Iraq's military said it had inflicted losses and made advances in the Hamdaniya district.
"The victory bell has rung" in the mission to retake the key city, Iraq's second largest, and free more than 1 million residents from the "brutality and terrorism of ISIS," al-Abadi said in a televised statement early Monday morning.
The battle for Mosul -- the largest city under ISIS control and the terror group's last remaining stronghold in Iraq -- represents "a decisive moment in the campaign" to defeat ISIS, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said.
The top Coalition general in Iraq, US Army Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, said the battle would be "a hard fight, but the Iraqi security forces are ready."
ISIS 'willing to put up a fight'
Nick Paton-Walsh, who is embedded with a Peshmerga convoy near Mosul, said he was witness to "staggering scenes" as forces advanced about 6 kilometers towards the city, with sporadic fighting erupting as they encountered pockets of ISIS fighters.
The anti-ISIS coalition greatly outnumbered their opponents, and had the benefit of calling in air support from the nearly 90 coalition and Iraqi planes involved in the operation whenever they met resistance, he said.
"They obviously have overwhelming numbers here and are moving very quickly against ISIS. But ISIS is showing that its very willing to put up a fight," he said.
ISIS had attempted to drive suicide car bombs at the Peshmerga convoy on several occasions during the advance.
But on the whole, he said, Peshmerga commanders felt they were encountering less resistance than they had expected.
Paton-Walsh was caught in an exchange of gunfire as he was filing a dispatch.
Journalist Hamdi Alkhshali, who is also southeast of Mosul, said the area is made up of around 50 small villages. He believes most residents here, who are predominantly Christians, fled ahead of the offensive.
Alkhshali saw a heavy exchange of gunfire from one of the villages, believed to be occupied by ISIS fighters, and Peshmerga forces.
Before Mosul was seized by ISIS in 2014, forming part of its self-declared caliphate across stretches of Iraq and Syria, the city was inhabited by more than 2 million people. Only about 1 million residents remain today.
Throughout the past year, Iraq's government and its allies have prepared for the major offensive to drive ISIS from the northern city, after the humiliating capitulation that resulted in its loss in 2014.
The battle for Mosul may last weeks or even months, if the operation to retake Ramadi is any indicator.
A diverse coalition of as many as 100,000 troops will be involved in the offensive, mostly made up of Iraqi government troops and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters -- although not all will be involved in the assault on the city, securing positions behind the frontlines instead.
Only Iraqi army troops and members of the national police force will enter the city of Mosul, according to Abadi.
The Iraqi-led forces include the Popular Mobilization Units, which plan to target ISIS tunnels and trenches south of Mosul with thermobaric missiles.
In addition, thousands of Kurdish forces have dug in from other directions in the desert surrounding Mosul.
The Pentagon, which has lent advisers and air support, recently announced the deployment of 600 additional American troops to aid in Mosul's capture, bringing the number of US personnel to 4,847.
About 3,600 coalition forces from other nations will also be deployed in support of the operation.
US military officials estimate there are up to 5,000 ISIS fighters in Mosul. ISIS supporters put the number at 7,000.
ISIS militants have taken measures to combat the effectiveness of airstrikes. Plumes of black smoke rose from oil-filled trenches on fire outside northeastern Mosul, an attempt by ISIS to obscure its fighters' positions during airstrikes, military sources said. Even still, one airstrike hit one of Mosul's main bridges.
Meanwhile, the terror group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a military checkpoint in southern Baghdad's al-Yousufiya neighborhood that killed 10 people and wounded 17 Monday, according to a security source.
The victims included civilians, soldiers and police.
Humanitarian crisis looms
Related statement today: Guantanamo transfer
The Department of Defense announced today the transfer of Mohamedou Ould Slahi from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the Government of Mauritania.
On July 14, 2016, a Periodic Review Board consisting of representatives from the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and State; the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence determined continued law of war detention of Slahi does not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States. As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, Slahi was recommended for transfer by consensus of the six departments and agencies comprising the Periodic Review Board. The Periodic Review Board process was established by the president's March 7, 2011 Executive Order 13567.
In accordance with statutory requirements, the secretary of defense informed Congress of the United States' intent to transfer this individual and of the secretary's determination that this transfer meets the statutory standard.
The United States is grateful to the Government of Mauritania for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The United States coordinated with the Government of Mauritania to ensure this transfer took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.
Today, 60 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay.
More information on the Periodic Review Secretariat can be found here.
Mosul is a city of normally about two and a half million people (2014 est.) in northern Iraq, occupied since June 10, 2014 by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Located about 250 miles north of Baghdad, the original city stands on the west bank of the Tigris River on the east bank, but the metropolitan area has grown to encompass substantial areas on both the "Left Coast" (east side) and the "Right Coast" (west side) as the two banks are described in the local language.
At the start of the 21st century, the majority of Mosul's population was Arab with Arameans, Armenian, Turkmen, Kurdish, Yazidi, Shabaki and other minorities. The city's population grew rapidly around the turn of the millennium and by 2004 was estimated to be 1,846,500. An estimated half million persons fled Mosul in the second half of 2014, and while some returned, more fled in 2015 as ISIL violence in the city worsened.
The city of Mosul is home to the University of Mosul and its renowned Medical College, which together was one of the largest educational and research centres in Iraq and the Middle East. The University has since been closed but at the choice of the Islamic State's leadership in Mosul, the Medical College remains open but barely functional.
Until 2014 the city was a historic centre for the Syriac orthodox church of the indigenous Arameans, containing the tombs of several Old Testament prophets such as Jonah which was destroyed by the Islamic State occupation army in July 2014.