US military using based reclaimed from ISIS to bombard Mosul

An American soldier is seen at the U.S. army base in Qayyara, south of Mosul October 25, 2016. (Alaa Al-Marjani)

One-thousand US troops are boots-on-ground near Mosul, occupying an air base formerly held by ISIS forces who have been sent scurrying out of the area.

When ISIS fighters were pushed out of Qayyara airbase (AKA “Q-West”) in July, the plucky jihadists attempted to completely dismantle anything they couldn’t take with them.

US forces found the airstrip demolished and booby-trapped, as well as other buildings and barriers knocked down in great haste.

“[ISIS] did everything they could to make the place unusable,” said Major Chris Parker, a coalition spokesman.

The base -which is 37 miles South of Mosul-  is now home to a relatively humble collection of 1,000 USAF, US Army and US Marine personnel, where the Americans help conduct joint operations with Iraqi military troops.

Since occupying the base, the walls and airstrip have been repaired, with one C-130 making a recent landing at the location.

While the Islamic State fighters dare not show their faces near the base, threats come in the form of indirect mortar fire and toxic fumes from a razed industrial plant nearby- earning the base the moniker “Rocket City.”

“It’s a concern for us,” Parker said. “We’re taking measures to mitigate the risk to soldiers. When the sulfur count gets to a certain degree we’ll don protective gear to make sure they’re as safe as possible.”

Verily, this is the same base that went on alert after a possible chemical attack, which sent US news outlets aflutter until it was realized that the chemical attack was a false alarm.

While conventional US ground troops do not go on frontline missions with the Iraqi soldiers, they personally hit ISIS with artillery and guided rocket fire, as well as assisting air assets in hitting their targets with the most impact.

“We’ve been hitting targets inside Mosul since we’ve been here,” one American soldier said. “Nothing else in theater can shoot as far as we can.”

Reuters reports that since the Mosul operation commenced, over 1,700 munitions have been dropped on battlefield targets by the Americans.

Still, concerns rise that Shi’ite fighters could spoil the relatively harmonious cooperation of the campaign by sparking sectarian tension with local Sunnis or carrying out revenge attacks.

“Anyone working in the Mosul operation needs to be working with the government of Iraq,” said Parker. He said that other forces not working directly with the government could “complicate or destabilize the situation”.

While the Iraqi army is close to driving ISIS out of the country, Parker says the battle is far from over.

“As Iraqi forces move closer to Mosul, we see that Daesh resistance is getting stronger,” Parker concluded.

Iraqi news sources reported that during the taking of the airfield, eighteen ISIS fighters were gunned down by Iraqi security forces.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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