Iraqi forces, bolstered by heavy airstrikes from the US-led coalition, are facing intense fighting as they encircle and move to retake the ISIS-held city of Fallujah. Multiple Iraqi brigades are surrounding the city, which is being infiltrated by commandos and members of the Iraqi counterterrorism service, Army Col. Christopher Garver, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said. This isolation phase has continued for weeks, with small advances coming slowly. “The fight against Daesh inside the city remains a slow, difficult fight, with Daesh continuing to offer stiff resistance,” Garver said. US and coalition aircraft have hit Fallujah with 19 airstrikes over the past week, striking tactical units, weaponry, and fighters. US intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft are hovering above the city, working to gain intelligence on the remaining ISIS presence. There’s “hundreds” of fighters dug in inside the city, though a specific estimate is not readily available, Garver said. Brigades of two Iraqi divisions, the 1st and the 14th division, are clearing Fallujah suburbs to the north, and units of the Iraqi 8th and 7th divisions are working with Anbar tribal fighters to clear the north and east of the city. The coalition has seen reports of Iranian-backed Shia groups killing Sunnis as they flee the city, and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has launched an investigation into these reports, Garver said, noting arrests have been made. (See also: Can’t Get No Satisfaction and Tough Fights in Iraq, Syria.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.