(The New York Times newspaper) One week after Iraqi forces began their push into western Mosul, American firepower is playing an essential role in softening the opposition from ISIS.
The thunderous booms from howitzers near Hamam al-Alil, a town along the Tigris River, are just part of the American military’s contribution to keeping the Iraqi offensive moving forward.
Capt. Geoffrey Ross, who commands the unit of self-propelled artillery here, said his soldiers had been a lot busier than he had anticipated.
“It’s considerably more than we thought we were going to shoot when we left Fort Hood,” he said on Saturday, as one of his howitzers hurled another round toward Mosul, 15 miles to the northwest.
At Qayyarah Airfield West, a sprawling Iraq base 40 miles south of Mosul, a United States Army task force fires Himars satellite-guided rockets at targets. Apache attack helicopters, equipped with Hellfire missiles, stand ready to carry out their missions from the base’s airfield.
Not to mention the punishing airstrikes by American and allied warplanes and drones. A flurry of attacks were carried out by the American-led coalition in and around Mosul on Saturday, some involving the dropping of multiple bombs.
That firepower, the decision to position American advisers closer to the fighting, and the determined efforts of the Iraqi forces themselves have yielded some notable gains. Iraq’s federal police have fully secured the Mosul airport, while Iraq’s elite counterterrorism service seized a nearby military base last week.
That ground has been taken at a cost. Four Iraqis were killed in action and 53 wounded on Friday, according to an American official who requested anonymity to discuss the statistics, which have yet to be officially published. That is a small fraction of the approximately 500 dead and 3,000 wounded that Iraqi forces suffered in their push to secure the eastern half of the city during an earlier, 100-day offensive.
But the toughest part of the battle — the house-to-house combat in the narrow streets of the old part of western Mosul — still lies ahead. The ISIS military tactics have also added to the challenge.