On his first trip to Baghdad as defense secretary, Jim Mattis praised the Iraqi army for its resilience and noted the forces are now focused on liberating west Mosul.
The battle for the complete liberation of Mosul cannot come soon enough for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens who for more than two years have suffered under ISIS oppression and terror.
“ISIS’s cruelty, brutality and reach show they are not just a threat in Iraq and Syria, but to the region and the entire world,” said Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.
The Iraqi army has the full support of the more than 60 members in the coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Mattis told reporters in the Iraqi capital.
He commended the accomplishments of the Iraqi army, saying the force has taken casualties, but has reconstituted itself both with equipment and personnel. After a months-long battle, east Mosul was cleared of ISIS. Now, the coalition-backed Iraqi forces have set their sights on freeing western Mosul.
In a written statement, Army Lieutenant General Townsend noted that the Iraqi forces have proved themselves to be an increasingly capable, formidable and professional force.
“Mosul would be a tough fight for any army in the world, and the Iraqi forces have risen to the challenge,” Townsend said. “They have taken the fight to the enemy and sacrificed their blood for the people of Iraq and the rest of the world.”
“While ISIS indiscriminately targets civilians the Iraqi security forces continue to do everything in their power to protect the citizens of Mosul, of all sects and religions,” said Townsend. “They have shown all of Iraq how to be a unified nation.”
To date, the coalition has conducted more than 10,000 airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and trained and equipped more than 70,000 Iraqi forces to support Iraqi operations.
"There will be more fights ahead. We'll stick together," Defense Secretary Mattis said. "As we look at the future, we're going to continue to stand by the Iraqi army and the Iraqi people who are fighting this enemy."