The US military has confirmed that American troops are deployed on the front lines in the offensive to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS terrorists.
In a statement on Monday morning, the American general in charge of the coalition’s war in Iraq and Syria, openly acknowledged the presence of “forward air controllers” amongst the US “advisory” contributions to the battle for Mosul in Iraq.
US Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of the anti-Daesh coalition, said in a statement on Monday that elite international forces are playing a major role in the fight for the city, which was captured by terrorists in June 2014.
He said US Special Operations forces, known as Joint Terminal Air Controllers, or JTACs, are on the ground providing intelligence in an attempt to ensure greater accuracy of aerial bombardment.
The presence of US troops on the ground is the latest departure from US President Barack Obama’s promise against having “boots on the ground” in Iraq.
“JTACs are the difference between precision bombing and area bombing,” said Christopher Harmer, a former US Navy pilot.
He added that the presence of US troops indicated Washington was willing to “incur casualties” in Mosul.
“With JTACS, you can select individual targets in real time and accurately strike them. Without JTACs, you can only bomb a general area and hope for success,” Harmer said.
The US has deployed at least 5,200 troops to Iraq, saying they are supporting government forces fighting against Daesh.
The US troops are allegedly providing air support, training and advice to the Iraqi military.
Meanwhile, the United Nations on Monday expressed concerns for civilians caught up in the Mosul offensive, which officials say could take weeks or even months. More than 1 million civilians are believed to be trapped in the city.
US forces invaded Iraq in 2003 to topple long-time dictator Saddam Hussein but the occupation deteriorated security in the Arab country and gave birth to various militant groups like Daesh.