Iraqi forces have announced significant progress in liberating eastern Mosul from the terrorists of the Islamic State. Brett McGurk, U.S. Special Envoy to the global coalition fighting ISIL congratulated the Iraqis. He noted there is still fighting ahead in Mosul, but the “terrorists are being routed as the Iraqi forces have the people on their side.”
One important step in that rout was the liberation of Mosul University -- once one of the largest institutions of higher learning in the Middle East -- captured by ISIL in 2014.
Speaking from Baghdad, U.S. Airforce Colonel John Dorrian, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, said freeing the university from the Islamic state was key for a variety of reasons: as a landmark educational institution, it is of great cultural consequence to the citizens of Mosul; and its recapture from Islamic State fighters who fought hard to retain it, denied the terrorists a significant base for operations and research.
As the Iraqi Security Forces combed the university buildings, they found “laboratories and workshops the enemy is suspected to have used to manufacture machine-grade weapons and facilities, indicating the university was a significant command and control node,” said Colonel Dorrian. ”There is evidence the enemy also trained their fighters in the university.” He added that Daesh left behind booby traps and set fire to several facilities, in a “continuation of the despicable tactics we've seen from these terrorists throughout the campaign.”
Now, however, the Iraqi flag flies over the campus, a potent symbol of a Daesh defeat, as Iraqi forces, with continuing help from the U.S.-led coalition, start operations to liberate west Mosul, the last densely populated urban area under Islamic State control.
Colonel Dorrian emphasized the work of liberating west Mosul will be slow, tedious and dangerous for the Iraqi forces. “They have to clear buildings…from rooftop level all the way through every room, every closet, every area around there all the way down into basements and into tunnels…But this is something that now the Iraqis are certainly developing plenty of tactics to deal with.”
Colonel Dorrian said, “We absolutely expect our partners, the Iraqis, to be successful in liberating [west Mosul]. We're going to hammer the enemy with our air and artillery strikes to help facilitate their advance and our advisers will be there to support them.”