Iraqi forces and U.S. coalition troops are no longer burdened by strict rules of engagement, which some say have turned firepower requests into bureaucratic nightmares.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. James Browning, commander of 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, recently spoke with reporters about a Dec. 26 directive that streamlined the process of delivering aid. The order, attributed to U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, was confirmed on Thursday by Air Force Col. John Dorrian, the U.S.-led coalition’s spokesman, The Washington Times reports.
“It changed the relationship [between forces],” Lt. Col. Browning told The Associated Press about increased flexibility on the battlefield. “It gives me a better understanding of how I can bring to bear the limited capabilities I have.”
The new rules, which were supplemented with more directives weeks ago, allow U.S. personnel to better assist — physically and logistically — the Iraqi army’s 9th Division. Advisers are increasingly embedded with Iraqis and they can avoid cumbersome requests through a joint command center.
Just a few months ago, Lt. Col. Browning’s phone conversation would have been impossible. Rather than request assistance directly, his call would have likely been routed through a joint command center much farther from the battle zone.
“[We previously] would have gone through a whole bureaucracy and through Baghdad,” the officer told AP by phone.
Military operations to dislodge the Islamic State group from Iraq’s second-largest city have seen a string of success in recent weeks. The eastern half of the city is under the control of coalition forces and its airport in the west was recaptured on Thursday.
Roughly 100,000 Iraqis are fighting to retake Mosul for the first time since June 2014. The United Nations has warned that up to 400,000 civilians could be displaced before the offensive ends.