On 13 May,Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and Defence Minister Steven Vandeput announced that Belgium will begin conducting airstrikes in Syria.*
Belgium is an important member of the coalition,and this contribution comes at a key moment of the campaign,said US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.Belgian aircraft played a key role in the air campaign over Iraq from October 2014-June 2015.As they return to Operation Inherent Resolve as part of a scheduled rotation with the Dutch military,Belgian F-16s now will operate with greater flexibility and coherence of effort as a result of the decision to conduct strikes in Syria as well,Mr.Carter explained.
As of 23 May,the new rotation had yet to begin.*
Meanwhile,Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the commencement of the effort to recapture Fallujah,which was lost to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant about two-and-a-half years ago.Fallujah is in Anbar Province and 50 km west of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.Tens of thousands of civilians are trapped in the city.Dozens of families have managed to flee,but ISIL is trying to prevent this.
The ISF have almost completely surrounded the city.Iraqi F-16s recently acquired from the US have been bombing the area to soften ISIL resistance along with OIR coalition aircraft.The US fought two major battles in Fallujah in 2004,suffering some of the heaviest casualties since the Vietnam War there.
Participating in Operation 15th of Shaban are 20,000 Iraqi troops:10,000 Iraqi Army soldiers,Federal Police and the Golden Division;plus 10,000 Popular Mobilisation Unit members,including 5,000 Sunni tribesmen from Anbar and 5,000 mostly Shia volunteers from around Iraq;the Iraqi Air Force and Iraqi Army Aviation,as well as the OIR aircraft.
IEDs,booby traps and mines are all expected to confront the ISF as they battle their way into the city,the recapture of which is seen by Iraq as the next logical step on the road to liberating the ISIL northern stronghold of Mosul after the liberation of the Anbar capital Ramadi in December 2015.*
Combined Joint Task Force OIR has announced the following results from airstrikes conducted by coalition aircraft yesterday,23 May:
In Syria,fighters and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 7 strikes,among them:
near the ISIL capital of Raqqah,4 strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed a military garrison;
near Shadaddi,a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed a vehicle and a fighting position.
In Iraq,attack,fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 12 strikes,among them:
near Fallujah,4 strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed a light machine gun,a front end loader,a mortar system,3 vehicle-borne IED storage facilities,2 rocket positions and 3 mortar positions;
near Mosul,4 strikes destroyed 2 ISIL vehicles,a VBIED,a mortar system and a fighting position,and suppressed a mortar position.*
Those that have conducted strikes in Iraq include the US;Australia;Belgium;Canada;Denmark;France;Jordan;the Netherlands;and the UK.
Those that have conducted strikes in Syria include the US;Australia;Bahrain;Canada;France;Jordan;the Netherlands;Saudi Arabia;Turkey;the UAE;and the UK.