Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday he wants to get forces in place before the start of Ramadan to retake Mosul. “Some of those are [Iraqi Security Forces] coming from the south, some of them are two brigades of Peshmerga coming from the north,” Carter told the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, but the goal is to have them all in place before Ramadan begins on June 6. During a video teleconference Wednesday afternoon, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said the coalition wants to cut off the southern line of communication to begin to isolate the city, because it is not feasible to completely surround Mosul in time. Warren in January said the US needed more military trainers to build up the necessary combat power to retake Mosul. In Syria, Carter said, the immediate objective is to “separate and make impossible, or very difficult, any travel or communication between Mosul and Raqqa, effectively sever the tumor in half,” as well as to gather forces in Raqqa to prepare to “collapse ISIL’s control” of that city. Carter said he has charged US Cyber Command with cutting off communication channels in Syria. (See also OIR Goes Multi-Domain.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.