ARLINGTON, Va. — Iraqi security forces with U.S. support have taken “all critical areas in eastern Mosul” from the Islamic State, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter confirmed at his final press briefing today.
“As they now prepare to clear the western part of Mosul, I’m confident that ISIL’s days in Mosul are numbered,” Carter said.
He added that the campaign stands as “a reminder to ISIL and many others that while the world doesn’t rest from the transition here in Washington, neither does the Department of Defense.”
The battle for Mosul began in mid-October, with Peshmerga forces participating in the advance but letting Iraqi forces be the ones to enter Mosul.
Picture of US special forces in Eastern Mosul. pic.twitter.com/mbbJ8CjT1M
— Carl (@Carlste30_) January 19, 2017
Mosul Operation, 18th Jan, 2017
Green : Eastern Bank, Liberated
Red : Eastern Bank, Clash Zone
Black : Western Bank, ISIL Control pic.twitter.com/E1SoTDHxKt
— Mosul Eye عين الموصل (@MosulEye) January 18, 2017
Carter expressed confidence in the man nominated to succeed him, retired USMC Gen. James Mattis, to “deliver ISIL the lasting defeat it deserves.”
The U.S. conducted airstrikes Wednesday night against two ISIS camps south of Sirte, Libya; the city had been ISIS’ last stronghold in the country until government forces and loyal militia drove out the terrorists. More than 80 ISIS fighters were killed, Carter said.
He emphasized the strikes “were directed against some of ISIL’s external plotters, who were actively planning operations against our allies in Europe.”
“The Libyans don’t like foreigners. And I think if they could settle their own internal differences, which is a political and diplomatic matter, they themselves would make quick work of ISIL,” Carter said.
“But we did these strikes, as we’ve done other actions in Sirte, and everything else we do there, at the request and with the permission of the [Government of National Accord] there. And we did this as well,” he added. “But we need to strike ISIL everywhere they show up. And that’s particularly true in view of the fact that we know that some of the ISIL operatives in Libya were involved in plotting attacks in Europe to our friends and allies there.”
Carter said the targeted ISIS fighters “may also have been connected with some attacks that have already occurred in Europe.”
Press secretary Peter Cook showed surveillance video of what led to the strikes: ISIS members moving equipment, including RPGs and shells.
— Andrew deGrandpre (@adegrandpre) January 19, 2017
Cook said that “while some work to clear pockets of resistance remains, nearly all of Mosul east of the Tigris River is in Iraqi hands for the first time in two-and-a-half years.”
“Iraqi security forces now control the eastern ends of all five bridges linking east and west Mosul,” he said.
IraqiNews reported that ISIS fighters in western Mosul are getting short-tempered with each other over food and ammo shortages: an argument broke out over some food Thursday, leaving one jihadist dead and two others wounded.