US Defence Secretary Aston Carter has said the US-led coalition will target Islamic State's (Isis, Isil) strongholds of Raqqa and Mosul in Syria and Iraq, respectively, in 2016. Besides the two cities, air strikes will target the terror group's other bases in the two countries, he said.
"We will begin by collapsing Isil's [IS] control over both of these cities and then engage in elimination operations through other territories Isil holds in Iraq and Syria," Carter said, while speaking to troops from the 101st airborne division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky on 13 January.
Next week, Carter is scheduled to meet his defence counterparts from France, Australia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK. Carter said he will not hesitate to challenge his counterparts to do more in order to end IS (Daesh) control in Syria and Iraq. "Each of these nations has a significant stake in completing the destruction of this evil organisation, and we must include all of the capabilities they can bring to the field," Carter said.
The military action plan follows an American pledge to help Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces retake the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, where US air strikes have been frequent. Carter, however, refrained from saying when Mosul would be reclaimed by the US-led forces. The US also plans to support Syrian moderate forces in a bid to end IS control of Raqqa.
"The specialised expeditionary targeting force I announced in December is now in place and is preparing to work with the Iraqis to begin going after Isil's fighters and commanders, killing or capturing them wherever we find them, along with other key targets," Carter said. He has said about 200 special operations forces would be deployed in Iraq.
In December 2015, Iraqi forces took control of Ramadi after US-led air strikes hit IS hard. Earlier in January, a US air strike destroyed IS cash storage facility that was holding currencies worth millions of dollars. The US has also begun targeting IS oil trucks heading out of Syria.