Islamic State Fighter, Mosul, Iraq, June 23, 2014
A fighter with the Islamic State group, aka either ISIL or ISIS, holds one of the group’s flags and a weapon on a street in the Iraqi city of Mosul in this file photograph dated June 23, 2014. Reuters/Stringer

As U.S.-backed Iraqi security forces continue their efforts to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group, jihadists are using desperate and violent tactics to maintain their ground in the region. ISIS militants are using children and disabled people as bombs by forcing them into explosives-laden trucks, a general from the U.S.-led coalition told Agence France-Presse this week.

Officials believe ISIS' adoption of coercive new techniques, including increasingly desperate battlefield measures, is a sign the group is aware that defeat is inevitable. On Thursday, Iraqi forces took control of Mosul's airport and a nearby military base — captured by ISIS fighters when they overran Mosul in June 2014 — in a bid to push out the militants of the city's western half.

U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Matt Isler told AFP that ISIS was using exploding trucks, known as vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED), to target several areas in Iraq and also use them as part of the Mosul offensive. As the group was running out of jihadists willing to drive the explosives-laden trucks, they chose to force children and disabled people into it.

"We saw people being led to a VBIED, being put in (it) and being chained in the VBIED," he said. "We've seen children put in VBIEDs as drivers, people that aren't able to walk... I don't know if they signed up for this service."

When Iraqi security forces approached the Tigris river, they found drivers being chained into trucks by jihadists, Isler said.

The U.S.-led coalition operation to free Iraq's second largest city of ISIS control began in October with the use of troops backed by jets, helicopters and drones. President Donald Trump has repeatedly vowed to eliminate the group from the region.

Last week, reports surfaced that ISIS recruited Iraqi orphans into its child soldier division, where they were being educated in jihadist ideology and military techniques.