The Islamic State militant group is “weakening” inside in its stronghold of Mosul city in Iraq, the Pentagon has said but acknowledged that it would take a while before the city can fall. “We see them weakening inside Mosul. How much? Clearly, that’s what we’re trying to figure out,” Col Christopher Garver, spokesman of coalition forces in Iraq, told Pentagon reporters during a video news conference here.
“But we do see some indications that morale is lower, we see indications that morale of the civilians inside Mosul is lower as well,” Garver said. Islamic State, he said, has started cutting off internet access and really access to the outside world for the citizens inside Mosul. They are afraid that citizens of Iraqi citizens inside Mosul are going to communicate with the Iraqi Security Forces.
“We’ve seen that fear in ISIS, in Daesh. We saw that in Ramadi, we saw that in Fallujah. We’re seeing those reflections kind of we see those indicators inside Mosul as well,” Garver said, adding that the coalition has seen continued execution of Daesh leaders by their senior commanders for lack of success of failure on the battlefield. “We hear indications in the press, in the open sources as well, that they’re not happy with the state of the operation. They weren’t happy with the state of the operation down in Fallujah and they’re not happy with where they are in Mosul,” he said.
Acknowledging that the fight in Mosul is not going to be an easy one, Garver anticipated that somewhere between 5,000 or so fighters are inside this Iraqi city. “We are going to continue to try to shrink that number down before the ground assault comes,” he said. “But we’re still anticipating a tough fight. We know that they consider this one of the two capitals of the so-called caliphate. It’s the capital inside Iraq, it’s the largest cities still held in Iraq,” he added. “Clearly, all eyes are kind of focused on Mosul right now, so not only would it be a significant physical loss, but the loss of prestige, as we saw after Fallujah, as we saw after Ramadi. Their reputation as they try to manage it is going to take a big hit when Mosul does fall,” Garver said.
According to Garver, coalition forces have completed a more technical assessment of the Qayyarah West Base and Airfield. The more important part of the base for the next phase of the operation is the base itself and not the runway. “The buildout of the base as a logistics hub and as a life support area for Iraqi forces as they prepare for the eventual assault into Mosul is the first priority,” he said. In the past 72 hours, the coalition has conducted six strikes along the Euphrates in support of the ISF, he said.
In Northern Mosul the coalition conducted a strike on August 1st against a foreign fighter accommodation and meeting facility that also served as a training site, he added.