Reuters reports today that the Trump administration is weighing the possibility of sending 1,000 American troops to Kuwait as a reserve force in the battle against ISIS:
Proponents of the option, which has not been previously reported, said it would provide U.S. commanders on the ground greater flexibility to quickly respond to unforeseen opportunities and challenges on the battlefield.
It would also represent a step away from standard practices under President Barack Obama’s administration by leaving the ultimate decision on whether to deploy some of those Kuwait-based reserve forces in Syria or Iraq to local commanders…
“This is about providing options,” said one U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Elsewhere, Reuters reported the U.S. backed coalition has taken control of the last major road out of Mosul. Iraqi forces have already retaken the eastern side of the Mosul and now must fight their way west.
The 9th Armoured Division and two Shi’ite fighting groups had “isolated the right bank (western side of Mosul) from Tal Afar”, it said.
The road links Mosul to Tal Afar, another Islamic State stronghold 60 km (40 miles) to the west, and then to the Syrian border.
With the city now cut off, remaining fighters have only two choices: surrender or fight to the death. One person not believed to still be in Mosul is ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Last October there was a report Baghdadi was still in the city even as Iraqi forces moved in to retake it. But today NBC News reports Baghdadi apparently fled the city months ago:
Military intelligence believes ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi abandoned Mosul prior to the battle to isolate the Iraqi city five months ago, a senior defense official confirmed.
The official said that they think Baghdadi, who called himself the ruler of all Muslims after taking Iraq’s second-largest city in 2014, is still alive but added that killing him is not a priority for the success of Operation Inherent Resolve — the U.S. military’s operation to combat ISIS.
Baghdadi is believed to be hiding out in the desert, hoping to stay alive as his caliphate continues to lose ground. That could work for a while but, as we saw with Osama bin Laden, eventually U.S. intelligence will locate him and special forces will come knocking on his door.