Mon Mar 20, 2017, 10:42 AM


U.S. base rises from the rubble for Mosul push - Iraqi News

(Reuters) U.S. troops are hard at work rehabilitating this battle-scarred, rubble-strewn airfield as a logistics and support hub for Iraqi and international forces in the decisive battle against Islamic State for the city of Mosul 60 km to the north. The whirl of activity and the return of American soldiers signify a new U.S. build-up in Iraq 14 years on from the invasion that set off a conflict which has undergone various permutations. But senior officers insist this mission is limited and temporary. The stated goal is to annihilate Islamic State and to help the Iraqi army.

“They are a sovereign nation and they’ve allowed us to come and advise them. We want to get rid of the bad guys. We are all moving towards the same objective,” said Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Curtis of the 82nd Airborne support battalion. Nine months ago, Islamic State still held Qayyara West. The hardline militants had seized it from the Iraqi army in 2014 and destroyed the place, demolishing buildings and breaking up the runway with jackhammers.

A resurgent Iraqi army recaptured it last July and soldiers from the U.S. 101st Airborne Division were deployed here in October as the offensive to recapture Mosul, Islamic State’s last stronghold in the country, got underway. The 82nd Airborne took over at Q-West, as the base is known, in December. About 1,000 personnel, mostly Americans but including other members of the international coalition, are based at Q-West out of a total of about 1,700 in the area of the Mosul operation, base commander Lieutenant Colonel Sebastian Pastor said.

Designated in military parlance as an Intermediate Staging Base, it provides support and logistics for several Tactical Assembly Areas closer to the battlefront. U.S. advisors are out on the field but Q-West also has an offensive role -– a rocket battery is stationed here and regularly fires missiles at IS positions in western Mosul, and an air cavalry troop flies its helicopters in support of Iraqi forces on the ground.

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