Setting the Stage in Mosul

The US-led coalition estimates that about 5,000 ISIS fighters are inside Mosul and holing themselves up in anticipation of a major Iraqi push to clear the city, as US airstrikes continue to target ISIS leadership and infrastructure inside the city. There have been signs that ISIS leadership has been weakening inside the city, such as ISIS senior commanders executing leaders for “a lack of success or failure on the battlefield,” said Army Col. Christopher Garver, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, in a Wednesday briefing. ISIS leadership reportedly isn’t “happy’ with how the fight for Fallujah and how things stand in Mosul. “None of this is to say that it’s going to be an easy fight in Mosul … We’re going to continue to try to shrink (the amount of ISIS fighters) down before the ground assault comes,” Garver said. US airstrikes on the city have continued, with US Central Command announcing Wednesday two strikes on ISIS tactical units, vehicles, and a mortar position. “But, we’re still anticipating a tough fight.” Mosul is a capital of the so-called caliphate, along with Raqqa in Syria, and ISIS will hold on to it. “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,” Garver said. “Their reputation as they try to manage it is going to take a big hit when Mosul does fall.”(See also: One Point at a Time, US to Build Up Iraqi Airfield for Mosul Fight)