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Coalition leaders 'plan to airdrop troops' into IS-held Mosul

Iraqi forces have recaptured several eastern neighbourhoods since the start of the offensive [Archive/Getty]

Date of publication: 30 November, 2016

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Iraqi military officials and US-led coalition leaders have met to discuss drawing up plans to airdrop troops into areas of Mosul still held by IS to speed up the offensive.
Iraqi military officials and US-led coalition leaders have met to discuss plans to airdrop troops into areas of Mosul still held by the Islamic State group [IS].

The generals met on Tuesday in Baghdad to hold "serious" discussions over air dropping soldiers over central and southern Mosul to help speed up the "stalling" offensive.

Iraqi Chief of Staff Othman al-Ghanimi along with other top military officials held a closed meeting with coalition leaders, including US General Stephen Townsend, who arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday to discuss the ongoing Mosul campaign with Iraqi officials, a source close to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told The New Arab.

"The officials discussed air dropping troops deep inside IS-held territory to disturb the cohesion of the jihadists' ranks and isolate some pockets to loosen their grip on the city," the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.

In the meeting, which lasted over two hours, officials stressed that Mosul must be back in government hands by the end of the year and that a squadron of Apache helicopters must arrive on the front lines as soon as possible.

Iraqi forces are battling IS deep in eastern Mosul, edging towards the Tigris river that divides the city, which is the extremists' last major stronghold in Iraq.

Since the October 17 start of a broad offensive to retake Mosul, Iraqi forces have recaptured several eastern neighbourhoods despite fierce resistance.

A High-ranking Iraqi military source, however, told The New Arab that progress has recently stalled on all three fronts of the battle.

Last week they were reported to be in control of 40 percent of eastern Mosul, although IS continues to attack government-held districts – on Monday a group of extremists infiltrated the Aden neighbourhood.

Iraqi forces are within three kilometres of Mosul airport immediately south of the city, but the southern and northern fronts have not moved in recent days.

Hashd al-Shaabi [Popular Mobilisation Units] paramilitaries have reached the outskirts of Tal Afar town, west of Mosul. They said they retook more than 12 villages over the past five days.

Iraqi forces launched an offensive on Tuesday morning 90 kilometres south of Mosul to seize IS-held territory east of Sharqat, a town they seized from the group in September. Military officials said government forces had taken six villages in the area.

Update 02/12/2016: A US spokesperson for Operation Inherant Resolve has denied this story as "baseless".

"First, there was never any proposal to conduct airdrops of troops into Mosul during LTG Townsend's last meeting with the Iraqi Security Forces leadership, or at any other time for that matter," said Colonel John L Dorrian of the US Air Force. "Second, no such discussion is necessary, since Iraqi Security Forces are quite capable of defeating Da'esh [IS] on the ground in Mosul. They have encircled Mosul, cutting off the ability of Da'esh to resupply or reinforce their fighters. The Iraqi Security Forces will defeat Da'esh in Mosul, and the Coalition will continue to provide logistical and intelligence support, air and artillery strikes, and advice and assistance as we have done throughout this campaign against Da'esh. It's just a matter of time."

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