American-led coalition forces have severely degraded the Islamic State's weapons capabilities in West Mosul, leaving the terrorist group reliant on small arms and human shields to conduct counterattacks, a senior U.S. general operating in Mosul said Wednesday.
Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, the commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq, said Iraqi Security Forces and U.S-led partner troops have stripped ISIS of their larger weapons capabilities, including suicide-born improvised explosive devices (IEDs), drone platforms, and indirect fighter platforms.
The number of ISIS fighters left in Mosul has also dropped significantly, with fewer than 1,000 militants believed to be remaining in the city versus an estimated 8,000 eight months ago.
"They're basically fighting now with rifles, machine guns, snipers, and of course the endless or limitless exploitation of the human element in Mosul," Martin told reporters during a Pentagon briefing streaming from Baghdad. "Those are their weapons right now, that's all they've got left."
Martin also said ISIS's attempts to develop chemical weapons has proved "insignificant operationally." He said the Iraqi, U.S., and partner forces are equipped with the necessary protection equipment and are adequately trained on how to counter chemical weapons should they confront them.
ISIS has seen its chemical weapons capabilities severely decline over the past year in Iraq and Syria, according to a report published Tuesday. The reduction of chemical attacks carried out by ISIS in Syria is due in large part to the U.S.-led operation in Mosul, where the terrorist group maintains its sole chemical weapons cell, according to analysts with London-based defense consultancy IHS Markit, which authored the report.
Though there have been nine chemical incidents in Iraq since January, U.S. military officials have said the attacks have little impact on the battlefield.
Martin said he could not offer a timeline on when the operation in West Mosul would be complete, but said the collapse of ISIS control there was "inevitable."
"They're surrounded--they've got no way out," he said. "It's a matter of time till we'll be down to zero [ISIS fighters] in West Mosul."
U.S.-led coalition forces launched operations to retake Mosul from ISIS militants in October. Iraqi forces retook Eastern Mosul in January, and life has moved toward a sense of normalcy with the return of residents and businesses.
ISIS still maintains strongholds in cities west of Mosul and along the Euphrates River. Martin said coalition forces would move to liberate those areas once West Mosul is recaptured, but declined to offer a timeframe.