The Islamic State group's existence in Iraq looks to be drawing to a close as Pentagon officials confirmed Monday that U.S.-led coalition forces had commenced operations aimed at driving the terror organization out of its last remaining stronghold in Mosul. Around 200 U.S. Delta Force troops, in coordination with the Iraqi military, are said to be conducting raids, seizing territory and plotting to rescue hostages and prisoners, according to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and other Pentagon sources.
"The only thing I'll say is the (Expeditionary Targeting Force) is in position, it is having an effect and operating, and I expect it to be a very effective part of our acceleration campaign," Carter said during a Defense Department briefing in Washington, D.C. Monday. His aim is to instill "fear" into the terror group so they know "that anywhere, anytime, they may be struck," he added.
A separate Pentagon source told CNN that Carter's comments marked the beginning of operations against the terror group that had based itself in Syria and Iraq over the last 20 months. However, U.S. ground operations against ISIS in Syria are thought to be too dangerous given that Russian and Syrian government forces are already attacking the terror group on a daily basis with ground and air resources.
— Kevin Baron (@DefenseBaron) March 1, 2016
Operations by the so called Expeditionary Targeting Force could also be expanded to Syria, claimed the Pentagon source to CNN, but a final decision had not yet been made. Similar raids were conducted in the southern Iraqi town of Ramadi in December where Special Forces, assisted by a targeted bombing campaign, pushed ISIS from the city.
Even though Mosul is the final stronghold, the Islamic terror group continues to have small pockets of its fighters dotted across the country, but will no longer have a main base of operations if U.S Special Forces are successful in their current operations. ISIS currently occupies the city of Fallujah in Anbar province, only 65 kilometers (40 miles) from Baghdad. However, the group is under siege by local Sunni tribesmen who enlisted to help push the group out of the city.