The United States military ramped up airstrikes on ISIS positions near the Mosul Dam yesterday and today. The terrorist group has been in control of the Mosul Dam since routing Iraqi forces. Under the cover of U.S. air support, Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been fighting to retake the strategic target.
Militants are disputing claims of control, but an Iraqi military spokesman has said that an Iraqi flag has been raised at the dam. Lieutenant General Qassim al-Moussawi was quick to note that security forces were still sweeping the area for explosive traps, possibly left behind by ISIS militants.
”Some of the dam facilities have not been cleared yet. But what is important is that the security forces have arrived at the dam and they were able to capture the dam and conduct a full check around it to make sure that it’s empty of bombs and explosive charges. The Iraqi flag has been raised on the dam this morning.”
ISIS was quick to hit back at the claim, calling it mere propaganda. What isn’t propaganda is the uptick in air strikes against the group. The United States has shifted from supporting Mt. Sinjar rescue operations to an offensive role in supporting Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
U.S. Central Command said that the strikes destroyed three ISIS armed vehicles, an anti-aircraft emplacement and a possible IED. ISIS checkpoints were also hit. No U.S. aircraft were damaged in the strikes, and all exited the area safely.
A RAND Corporation senior advisor Rick Brennan said this was the beginning of more reasoned strikes against ISIS in Iraq.
“The earlier argument that the president was making about the humanitarian mission and the limited assistance that we’d be giving I think was unrealistic given the type of assistance that the Iraqis need. And so, at this point in time, what the Iraqis need is assistance in trying to help in doing the operational planning and the integration of air and ground capabilities to try to move back ISIL. We need a strategic approach as to how we’re going to engage, how our western allies will engage, as well as the nations in the region will engage to turn back ISIL.”
While the situation may seem like mission creep for U.S. forces, the air strikes have blunted ISIS advances in Iraq. Irbil is no longer under threat of attack. And if ISIS is using captured Iraqi equipment in the open, U.S. warplanes are there to strike. The moves will likely force the group back into the relative cover of urban areas such as Mosul and other captured towns.
Public opinion is mixed on the how far the intervention goes. President Obama has assured the public no ground forces will be involved, but the number of military advisors has already breached 1,000. Undoubtedly the group needs to be stopped. Not only does it pose a regional threat, its social media capability is making it a global threat.