More US troops may be sent into Syria to fight ISIS


He stressed that the Pentagon was not considering sending American combat troops to take over the fighting in Syria and that the strategy developed during the Obama administration of keeping local forces in the lead would not change. IS had used Tell al-Rayan to position snipers and fire off rockets and mortar rounds to derail the advance of the Iraqi troops, he said. The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, said his troops sustained at least a dozen casualties, including some inflicted by a auto bomb attack.

Eastern Mosul has already been liberated following a 100-day battle in which Iraqi troops suffered heavy casualties.

"We've been walking since the morning", said his wife, Badriya, cradling their 1 ½-year-old daughter in her arms.

Dunford repeatedly declined to answer questions about what specific options the Pentagon will present the president, including whether the US military will have an enduring presence in Iraq even after the battlefield defeat of ISIS, whether more USA troops will be sent to Syria and whether the United States might decrease support for Kurdish fighters to appease Turkey.

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All bridges linking the east and west of the city, across the river Tigris, have been destroyed by airstrikes. The presence of up to 750,000 civilians also poses a challenge.

When it was overrun by ISIS fighters in the summer of 2014, Mosul's population was around 2 million. But the Sunni militant group has been steadily losing territory, as backing by the USA -led coalition proved critical for Iraqi government efforts clawing back territory lost to the extremists.

Instead, he raised the prospect of American troops providing logistics assistance and fire support in the form of artillery to Syrian opposition fighters, much as US forces already do in Iraq - a nation with a more developed army of its own. The northern Syrian town in Aleppo province is one of the militants' last urban strongholds in Syria west of Raqqa, the Islamic State group's de facto capital.

The Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) special forces seized 85 percent of Ghazlani military base in the southern outskirts of the western side of Mosul after heavy battles with the extremist militants, the Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a statement.