The Pentagon said this week that the U.S. would like to see Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, re-captured before the end of the year, and that "fire bases" may be opened to support Iraqi Security Forces in their offensive. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army/Capt. Meredith Mathis
BAGHDAD, April 7 (UPI) -- The United States could increase the number of fire support bases in Iraq in continued efforts to help the Iraqi security forces recapture the city of Mosul.
Fire support bases are temporary military camps used to provide artillery fire in support of ground troops. Iraq launched a significant offensive recently to retake Mosul, Iraq's second largest city that was seized by the Islamic State in June 2014.
"As the ISF progresses toward isolating Mosul, there may be a situation where there is another base that is opened -- or re-opened from years past -- that would be used in the same manner as a fire support base," Rear Adm. Andrew L. "Woody" Lewis told reporters on Wednesday, Military.com reports.
No additional "fire bases" have been deployed since March, when about 200 Marines equipped with four M114 155 mm howitzers set up base about 60 miles southeast of Mosul. An Islamic State attack on that fire base, called Fire Base Bell, on March 19 killed 27-year-old California native Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin.
Cardin is the second U.S. service member officially listed as killed in Iraqi ground combat since August 2014, when the United States began an airstrike campaign against the Islamic State. Army Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, 39, of Roland, Okla., was killed in October during a special operations raid on the town of Hawijah to free Islamic State prisoners.
Lewis, the Joint Chiefs of Staff's vice director for operations at the Pentagon, said the establishment of more fire bases would be "dependent on what's happening on ground and what's happening in the campaign."
Lewis also said the Iraqi army victories have successfully disrupted Islamic State communications and supply lines in efforts to isolate Mosul.
When asked if Mosul would be recaptured by the end of the year or early next year, Lewis said that is "certainly something that we would like to see."