Iraqi forces have paused their advance toward the city of Mosul to clear pockets of Islamic State supporters and booby traps, a U.S. military spokesman said Friday.
Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq, said that at least some Iraqi forces had taken the pause “to do some back clearing and make sure that their flanks and their rear are clear” of militants or attacks laid by them.
“We expected that there would be instances where they needed to pause and reposition forces, you know, because the enemy gets a vote,” Dorrian told reporters at the Pentagon. “The Iraqis have made the determination that now is the time to do that, and we’ve continued to conduct strikes in support of them, to go against tunnels, the command and control network for Daesh.”
Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.
Iraqi forces, including the Iraqi army, elite counterterrorism forces and Kurdish peshmerga, have made significant progress in recapturing territory surrounding Mosul since the operation to reclaim the strategic city began on Oct. 17.
Dorrian said the pause was not an indication that the operation, which would last “a couple of days,” had veered off course.
Maj. Gen. Najim Jabouri, who heads the operations command for Nineveh, the province where Mosul is located, said that forces on Mosul’s southern front had paused to “consolidate the achievements” and reorganize, also blaming poor weather.
“Tomorrow if the weather is good, we will advance according to the plan,” he said.
On the eastern front, Iraq’s elite counterterrorism units have paused around four miles from Mosul’s outer limits, according to Lt. Gen. Abdul Ghani al-Asadi, head of the force. “We are now waiting for the other axes to get as close to the city as we are,” he said.
Mustafa Salim contributed to this report from Irbil, Iraq.