The U.S. and Iraq are changing tactics in
the fierce battle against ISIS for the Iraqi
city of Mosul, NPR News has learned.
The Iraqi commander coordinating the
battle tells NPR the Iraqi military will
slow an offensive pushing into the crowded
old district of the city to try to minimize
civilian casualties. The new tactics will
mean fewer U.S. and Iraqi air strikes.
"We agreed among the commanders to not
depend on the air strikes because that means
we will maybe lose a lot of people," says
Maj. Gen. Najm Abdullah al-Jabouri, head of
the Ninevah Operations Command.
More than 100 Iraqi civilians were killed
in U.S. air strikes on March 17 in the Mosul
Jadidah neighborhood. The Pentagon is
investigating whether the air strikes also
set off ISIS-laid explosives that
contributed to houses collapsing. Jabouri
says the military had not realized there
were dozens of people sheltering in many of
Iraqis line up for food distribution on
Wednesday in West Mosul.
"Because of the shortage of air strikes
now we need to make some maneuvers to change
our plans," says Jabouri.
The new plan will also involve
repositioning troops to reinforce areas
surrounding West Mosul rather than pushing
south into the old city. Iraqi forces have
entirely surrounded the city leaving ISIS
with no escape route. But that plan has also
trapped an estimated 400,000 civilians being
used by ISIS as human shields. Residents of
Mosul say ISIS fighters routinely shoot at
anyone trying to leave.
While U.S. and coalition air strikes
paved the way for Iraqi forces to retake
less densely populated East Mosul, the
battle across the river in streets too
narrow for armored vehicles requires
"We moved very quickly on the east side
of the city but our mission now is very
difficult," says Jabouri. "We have now
liberated more than 50 percent of the city
and we know very well the people still in
the city are suffering a lot because of the
shortage of food, water, electricity,
Along with several thousand civilians
killed or injured in the battle for Mosul,
the Iraqi military has also suffered heavy
losses. US and Iraqi commanders say almost
800 Iraqi forces have been killed and more
than 4,000 wounded. As they move further
into West Mosul they have encountered more
effective ISIS defensive lines.
Jabouri estimates between 700 and 800
ISIS fighters remain in Mosul.
"That's not very much but the problem is
the number of civilians still in the city,"
he says. "What use is it to liberate Mosul
if you have so many losses."