… Every day, for weeks, the battle to take western Mosul from the Islamic State has looked like this: a block-by-block crawl as casualties mount.
The militants are contesting every move by the counterterrorism forces, and they are making full use of the hundreds of thousands of civilians still trapped in their strongholds.
“If the city was empty of civilians, we could have been done with our mission a long time ago,” said Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, a senior commander with the counterterrorism service.
The plight of civilians appears to be worsening by the day, adding to commanders’ urgency to find some edge against the Islamic State here.
The Iraqis do not have the luxury of conducting a siege: Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has told his generals that dragging out the Mosul operation, now in its seventh month, would work only to the advantage of the Islamic State, which many in the West call ISIS or ISIL, but the Iraqis call Daesh.
This was not the mission that American military commanders envisioned for the counterterrorism service when they established it after the United States invasion in 2003. The force’s original mission was to conduct lightning raids against terrorists and insurgents…