SOUTHWEST ASIA, Jan. 24, 2017 —
After more than 100 days of hard urban combat, Iraqi officials announced the liberation of eastern Mosul today.
While clearance operations are ongoing, the Iraqi security forces control all areas inside the city east of the Tigris River, the east bank of the river around all five bridges crossing the Tigris River, Mosul University and the Ninevah Ruins.
During their offensive to liberate the city of more than one million residents, which was held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant for more than two years, the Iraqi and peshmerga security forces fought through an elaborate defense formed over the past two years to not only keep the Iraqi security forces out, but the residents of Mosul captive. Through it all, the Iraqi security forces displayed their professionalism by placing the lives of citizens before their own and taking precautions to protect the citizens of Mosul while battling a brutal and fanatic enemy, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials said.
Meanwhile, they added, ISIL resorted to using children and other civilians as shields against coalition and Iraqi air and artillery strikes and used protected facilities such as hospitals, mosques and schools as weapons storage facilities and bases for its terrorist operations.
Since Oct. 17, the coalition has conducted 558 air strikes in assistance of the Iraqi forces, using 10,115 munitions against ISIL targets. These munitions have destroyed at least 151 vehicle bombs, 361 buildings/facilities, 140 tunnels, 408 vehicles, 392 bunkers, 24 anti-air artillery systems, and 315 artillery/mortar systems.
During the offensive, the Iraqis fended off an average of five vehicle bombs a day, and endured daily mortar and sniper attacks, as well as surveillance and frequent attacks by ISIL unmanned aerial systems dropping grenades on friendly forces.
“This is a monumental achievement for not only the Iraqi security forces and sovereign government of Iraq, but all Iraqi people,” said Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the multi-national counter-ISIL coalition tasked with the military defeat of ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
“This would have been a difficult task for any army in the world,” Townsend said. “And to see how far the Iraqis have come since 2014, not only militarily, but in their ability to put their differences aside and focus on a common enemy, gives real hope to the people of Iraq that after years of fighting and instability, peace and security are attainable.”
“There is still a long way to go before ISIL is completely eliminated from Iraq, and the fight for western Mosul is likely to be even tougher than the eastern side,” he said. “But the [Iraqis] have proven they are both a professional and formidable fighting force and I have every confidence that ISIL’s days are numbered in Iraq.”
“The warriors of the coalition join me in congratulating our comrades in the Iraqi security forces on this achievement and wish them good luck and Allah's blessings for the fight on the west side that lies ahead,” the general said.
The coalition trains, equips and enables the Iraqi and peshmerga security forces with advise and assist teams, intelligence, artillery and air strikes. Since the start of operations in October 2014, the coalition has trained more than 50,000 Iraqi fighters and launched more than 17,000 strikes on ISIL targets in support of its partners on the ground.
Over the past two years, with coalition training and equipment, the Iraqis rebuilt their military and liberated more than two million people and major population centers such as Ramadi, Fallujah, Tikrit, Kirkuk, Qayyarah and Sharqat. Now they are well on their way to the complete liberation of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, officials said.