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Defense Secretary James Mattis says U.S. air forces heavily involved in Mosul operation

Defense Secretary James Mattis meets with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. (United Arab Emirates News Agency / AFP/Getty)
Defense Secretary James Mattis meets with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. (United Arab Emirates News Agency / AFP/Getty)

U.S. special forces are operating near the front lines in the battle to retake western Mosul from Islamic State, but Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said Sunday during a visit to Arab allies here that there has been no change to rules of engagement regarding U.S. forces' role in the Iraqi operation since President Trump took office.

Mattis plans to present the White House with a more aggressive plan to combat Islamic State by month’s end, but he acknowledged Sunday that U.S. airstrikes pounded Islamic State targets in western Mosul in the days ahead of the Iraqi assault, hitting militant command and control facilities.

The multinational coalition led by the U.S. has conducted more than 10,000 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq, the Pentagon said, while more than 70,000 Iraqi forces have been trained and equipped.

"The isolation phase has been going on for some time now," Mattis said. "The attack into the city is something I don't want to get into details about because I owe confidentiality to the troops who are actually making the attack."

U.S. pilots say the airspace above west Mosul is thick with aircraft. At any given time, up to 50 warplanes are flying in an increasingly compressed area.

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