U.S. Forces Stay Behind Frontline, Offer Surveillance Support, Says Commander
U.S. forces in Iraq are staying back from the frontline, performing surveillance and advisory roles for Iraqi forces in the battle for Mosul, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel James Browning said.
Browning, a battalion commander from the 82nd Airborne Division, is one of more than 5,000 U.S. service members currently deployed in Iraq to "advise and assist" security forces that collapsed when Islamic State (ISIS) overran Mosul nearly three summers ago.
Speaking to Reuters at the joint Iraq-U.S. base in southwest Mosul, Browning discussed how Iraqis provide human intelligence that U.S. forces corroborate in order to identify targets and determine the best approach to attacking them.
He also described Iraqi forces as "incredibly brave," risking their lives to take Mosul.
“They [Iraqi forces] know they're going to lose vehicles, they know they're going to lose people and they go anyway and that's incredibly brave to see it every day."
Since the Mosul offensive began last October, the U.S. role has evolved so that American forces are now partnered with Iraqi troops at a lower level, reducing the time it takes for them to respond to ISIS.
U.S and Iraqi forces hold daily discussions on operations and determine what U.S. forces can do to help, which may involve providing imagery, intelligence, air strikes, or ground fire.
"This is their country and they're liberating it. That's a difference, it is a huge difference. They're not fighting a counter insurgency, they're fighting a state that stood up inside their own state. They're fighting evil day in and day out," Browning added.
Browning's Iraqi opposite number, Lieutenant General Qassem al-Maliki, said coalition forces in general perform an air support, surveillance, intelligence and logistical role.
After opening up a new front in northwest Mosul last week in order to stretch the militants' defenses, Iraqi forces say the battle for Mosul is now in its final phase.