The Pentagon sends 1700 soldiers of the elite 82nd Airborne Division to Iraq. During the previous two months, the paratroopers have been intensively preparing for battles in a city, including in conditions of usage of chemical weapons by an enemy. It is expected that along with the Iraqi Security Forces, they will take part in the assault on Mosul, the capital of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in Iraq.
According to official US Army‘s sources, the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division will soon become a part of the forces, involved in Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), aimed to defeat the forces of the IS terrorist group on the territories of Syria and Iraq. In December 2011, this military unit ensured the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and the completion of Operation Iraqi Freedom. However, according to the US Command, this time, the paratroopers will not directly participate in hostilities. At the same time, before sending to Iraq, they completed a full course of training at the Fort Polk military base in Louisiana.
In particular, fighters of the 82nd Airborne Division learned to operate in urban environments and storm enemy’s fortifications under cover of artillery fire and air strikes. The intense combat training began in early September and continued until the sending of the paratroopers to Iraq. During the last two weeks, units of the 2nd Brigade worked off actions in conditions of usage of chemical weapons by an enemy.
In total, the US has about 5,000 soldiers in Iraq. According to official sources, only about 100-200 US troops, mostly fighters of the US Special Operations Forces (SOF) and air controllers, are in combat formations of Iraqi troops, advancing on Mosul. Tasks that are being solved by other 4,900 soldiers are not specified.
Pentagon officials insist that American officers act as military advisers to Iraqi commanders, give them intelligence information, coordinate air strikes, as well as are responsible for logistical support.
However, the facts evidence that the Pentagon forms a ‘powerful fist’ of elite military units, coached to conduct war in urban environments. If the Iraqi forces fail to make progress by themselves, these units will go into the battle. Currently, there are 1,700 soldiers of the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq. They are stationed at the Qayyarah airbase, about 60 km from Mosul. Units of the 18th Field Artillery Brigade are deployed at the same place in order to provide fire support to the US paratroopers. In addition, a battalion of marines, named Task Force Spartan, also acts in the area of Mosul.
The Apache and Super Cobra helicopters provide direct support to the Iraqi forces and also help to maintain the morale of local fighters. US combat engineers, including officers of the 101st Division, actively operate in the rear of advancing units – they help to maintain roads in a working order, seeking out and eliminating explosive devices.
Formally, soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division should replace their colleagues from the 101st Division. However, any exact time limits of the rotation are not reported, and, in practice, it may happen that in the next 1-2 months, right in the midst of the assault, there will be twice as many paratroopers near Mosul.
The 82nd and 101st Divisions are parts of the 18th Airborne Corps, which is under command of Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, who is also a head of Operation Inherent Resolve. So, in fact, the whole 18th Corps, including units of artillery and air support, will be deployed in Iraq soon. This will greatly increase effectiveness of actions of troops if they have to join the battle, and it is almost inevitable, taking into account the limited success of the Iraqi Army.
We can assume that the 82nd Airborne Division will be sent to storm the western suburbs of Mosul, and its task will be to capture the entire city or to oust terrorists from it. The second variant – soldiers of the 2nd Brigade will block the western approaches to Mosul in order not to allow terrorists to leave the city and to prevent approach of reinforcements to them.