QAYARA AIR BASE, Iraq – Reinforcements have been sent to eastern Mosul after a major Islamic State counterattack drove troops back last week, further slowing a nearly two-month-old offensive to retake the city, according to an Iraqi commander.

Maj. Gen. Najim al-Jabouri said Saturday that Federal Police and Iraqi army units have moved from the southern front to the city’s east, where most of the fighting has been concentrated in recent weeks. Iraqi commanders had hoped to push up from the south to take Mosul’s international airport, but those plans appear to be on hold.

Iraqi forces are still largely dependent on airstrikes and artillery to clear territory, which has frustrated progress on the ground in Mosul because of the hundreds of thousands of civilians still living in the city.

Capt. Alexandre, a commander of a French artillery unit stationed at Qayara air base, estimated that his men had fired more than a thousand rounds from the base since the Mosul operation was launched in October.

He spoke on condition that only his first name and rank be published, citing French government restrictions.

“Artillery provides us with flexibility to conduct precision strikes,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alison Thompson, explaining that in urban environments precision strikes are used to minimize damage to infrastructure.


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