The US-led coalition is planning to do more to help Iraqi forces in their effort to retake the ISIS-held stronghold of Mosul, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Monday. The coalition is reviewing Iraq’s plan to retake the city, while at the same time airstrikes and local forces have reclaimed a key village to “sever the last artery” between Mosul and the so-called ISIS capital of Raqqa, Syria. “We’re also using cyber tools to disrupt ISIL’s ability to operate and communicate over the virtual battlefield,” added Carter. Over “the last few days,” the United States helped local forces retake the town of Shaddadi, “a critical node for ISIL training and logistics, as well as for its oil enterprise,” said Carter. This means the US and partner nations will have an opportunity to learn more about ISIS and its criminal networks, as well as “what it does to sustain” them, said Carter during a joint briefing at the Pentagon with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford. The offensive to retake Mosul will be led by Iraqi Security Forces, with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi taking the lead, though the US is expecting to do more. This could include additional special operating forces and more close air support to help Iraqi forces storm the city.
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.