As the Iraqi coalition offensive approaches the outskirts of Mosul, Islamic State fighters are rapidly losing terrain in spite of the various tactics they have employed to try to slow the advance by Iraqi security forces and Kurdish peshmerga. Satellite imagery, taken earlier Oct. 18, shows in detail the road ahead for some of the advancing forces.
As part of the larger operation to drive the Islamic State out of Mosul, peshmerga and Iraqi forces have been steadily advancing along Highway 2 since the offensive began the night of Oct. 16. The combined forces started at the town of Aski Kalak on the Great Zab River and advanced almost 23 kilometers (about 14 miles) to engage entrenched Islamic State militants in Bartella, just east of Mosul. The Islamic State launched a number of suicide vehicle bomb attacks against the advancing troops in an attempt to slow the offensive. Farther to the south, Iraqi forces have taken control of Qarah Qosh (also known as Bakhdida), and satellite imagery shows the resulting damage from the fight to recapture the village from its Islamic State defenders.
Farther west on Highway 2, in territory still held by the Islamic State, imagery shows that the tide is starting to shift against the militants. Airstrikes and artillery fire are softening up Islamic State lines in preparation for a further Iraqi thrust. Structures used by the Islamic State and defensive positions such as berms and trenches have been targeted to weaken the resolve of its fighters once Iraqi and peshmerga forces arrive, and to allow forward passage of troops.
The imagery also reveals attempts by the Islamic State to mitigate the effects of the barrage. At several locations along Highway 2, the militants have established temporary barriers to try to block vehicles. Some of these barriers appear to be constructed from tires, and in certain locations, they have been set ablaze to create a smokescreen that is meant to obscure visibility and impede air operations.