ARLINGTON, Va. — The spokesman for operations against ISIS in Iraq told reporters at the Pentagon today that the terror group is showing signs of “weakening” as coalition forces prepare an attempt to retake Mosul.
Col. Chris Garver said via video from Baghdad that the Qayyarah West Base and Airfield is being built out “as a logistics hub and as a life support area for Iraqi forces as they prepare for the eventual assault into Mosul.”
On Monday, a coalition strike hit a Saddam-era palace near Mosul being used as accommodations for foreign ISIS fighters.
“The strike was conducted by coalition aircraft from several different contributing nations,” Garver said. “The destruction of this facility will degrade Daesh’s ability to support, house and train foreign fighters as they flow into Northern Iraq.”
The coalition estimates they face about “5,000 or so” fighters in Mosul, which is the largest city controlled in Iraq by the Islamic State.
“You have kind of the force that we think is there now and the force that we want to be there when we conduct the assault, and that’s part of the shaping operations to pound the enemy down to the number that you want to fight as opposed to the number that’s there,” Garver said.
“We see them weakening inside Mosul. How much? Clearly, that’s what we’re trying to figure out. But we do see some indications that morale is lower, we see indications that morale of the civilians inside Mosul is lower as well,” he added.
“We know that they have started cutting off internet access and really access to the outside world for the citizens inside Mosul and we know that they’re afraid that citizens of — Iraqi citizens inside Mosul are going to communicate with the ISF. We’ve seen that fear in ISIS, in Daesh. We’ve seen that — we saw that in Ramadi, we saw that in Fallujah. We’re seeing those reflections, as we call it, kind of we see those indicators inside Mosul as well.”
On Friday, ISIS publicly executed 20 civilians accused of supporting “enemies of the caliphate.”
Mosul had a population of some 2.5 million before ISIS invaded more than two years ago. The population has dropped to about half of that as residents have fled; ISIS has killed men, women and children trying to flee the metropolitan area.
Garver added that the coalition has seen “continued execution of Daesh leaders by their senior commanders for lack of success or failure on the battlefield.”
“And 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.
“None of that is to say that’s going to be an easy fight in Mosul. We still anticipate that somewhere between 5,000 or so fighters are inside Mosul. Like I said, we’re going to continue to try to shrink that number down before the ground assault comes. But, you know, we’re still anticipating a tough fight. We know that they consider this one of the two capitals of the so-called caliphate.”
Losing Mosul, the colonel stressed, would be “a significant physical loss” and also “the loss of prestige” for ISIS, “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.
Join the conversation as a VIP Member