BAGHDAD, May 12 (UPI) -- Iraqi security forces are now closer to Mosul than at any time since 2014, when the Islamic State seized control of Iraq's second-largest city.
Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky credited the advance to the Iraqi security force's continued pressure on the Islamic State in the Euphrates River Valley and operations that allowed them to operate in the town of Makhmur.
"That's the farthest north that Iraqi security forces have been since the fall of Mosul," Volesky, the U.S. ground forces commander for Operation Inherent Resolve, said Wednesday, according to a press briefing. "And so what we've seen from the enemy is the enemy was originally able to ... use the Tigris River Valley and the Euphrates River Valley, tied them as really one operation. So they could move men, weapons and equipment really without much problems from the Tigris to the Euphrates River Valley. But based on these operations that we've seen, they -- they're no longer able to do that. So they have to fight the Euphrates River Valley and the Tigris River Valley really as two separate operations."
Volesky said the pressure by security forces, aided by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, has diminished the Islamic State's ability to launch large attacks.
"Their ability to conduct large-scale offensive operations has primarily stopped," Volesky added. "They're more -- more every day on the defensive, delaying -- trying to delay Iraqi security forces just to buy time."
Iraqi security forces launched an offensive to retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State control in March. The effort began by isolating the city from surrounding areas and slowly chipping away at IS territory and supply routes. The Peshmerga later joined the offensive.
Mosul is considered one of the most important battles in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq. U.S. President Barack Obama said he expects the city of Mosul to be retaken by the Iraqi government by the end of the year.