Iraqi government forces advancing on the Islamic State-held city of Mosul retook a village from IS on Tuesday and linked up along the Tigris river with army units pushing from a separate direction, Defence Minister Khalid al-Obeidi said.
The territorial gain, which followed the recapture of a key air base nearby at the weekend, further isolated Mosul in preparation for a government assault to recover Iraq's second largest city 60 km (40 miles) further north.
Our military finally seems on board with a faster offensive to take Mosul from ISIL:
The deployment of 560 additional U.S. troops [to the recently captured air base] to help Iraq forces prepare and conduct the offensive to retake the northern Iraqi city of Mosul may signal a tipping point in the war against the Islamic State, some Pentagon officials hope.
The decision to send the American forces was triggered by a surprisingly easy victory on the battlefield on Saturday in which Iraqi forces essentially blindsided Islamic State fighters and retook a strategic airfield that will serve as a staging ground for the Mosul offensive, now seen as on track to happen this year.
Strategypage writes about ISIL's shaky morale:
It did not go unnoticed by anyone that many of the ISIL defenders in Ramadi and Fallujah were not willing to fight to the death, or even fight at all. This despite ISIL commanders ready to shoot on the spot any subordinate who faltered. The upcoming offensive to liberate Mosul is taking weakening ISIL morale into account and low level combat commanders have been told what to look for (a true morale collapse and not just a feint) and take advantage of it to quickly advance.
They have a lot more. Read it all.
I've certainly been writing that since Ramadi was retaken at the end of last year that ISIL's forces seem amazingly unwilling to fight to the death and exact a price on Iraqi forces for winning even the smallest patch of Iraqi territory.
This lack of fighting spirit should mean we accelerate the fight to take advantage of ISIL's bad morale before ISIL can recover.
Indeed, I've assumed that we've noticed this change, even though a British general giving a briefing on the Iraq campaign downplayed the role of ISIL's morale on Iraqi victories lately. I wrote:
If we assume the fight for Mosul will be difficult, what is it based on? Because for the last eight months or so, ISIL jihadis haven't seemed like they have the will to fight in Iraq. ...
To put it in terms the British general should understand, from ISIL's point of view there seems to be something wrong with our bloody jihadis today.
I think that when the Mosul offensive finally gets rolling, it will start sooner than people think and move faster than people think it will.
And now our military is openly admitting what has seemed apparent; and is saying that the Iraqi offensive could take Mosul this year rather than merely begin by the end of the year.
And Iraqi forces are now close enough to march on Mosul. Good hunting. Kill them all.
The liberation of Mosul won't end the war against jihadi terrorism. But it is a necessary start to winning that war.
UPDATE: Perhaps the offensive begins two hours after this meeting ends:
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and senior officials from other countries in the coalition battling Islamic State will meet near Washington, D.C., on July 20 to discuss the ongoing military campaign, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.
The big push requires the big meeting. And big PowerPoint presentations, I assume.
UPDATE: Reports of 60 dead and 100 injured in a terror attack in Nice, France, are coming in.
A combination of a truck ramming a crowd and gunfire, it seems.
This is part of the price we are paying for taking so much time to defeat ISIL and deprive them of a sanctuary to plan attacks like this.
But by all means, take some time to come up with a weepy hashtag, instead.
And alert James Taylor, of course.
I'm sick of this. What do we expect if we don't kill them first?
UPDATE: Late but relevant.