World Bulletin / News Desk
"The number of coalition forces in Iraq is now 8,000 personnel, including 4,500 Americans," U.S. Army Lieutenant-Colonel John Dorian said at a press conference held at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
This number, he stressed, would not be increased without the express consent of the Iraqi government.
Dorian went on to put the number of militants in Iraq’s ISIL-held city of Mosul at somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000.
"Our intelligence confirms that ISIL militants have dug trenches and erected outposts inside Mosul," he said. "We expect to see fighting inside the city."
According to the army official, coalition warplanes have recently carried out a total of 341 airstrikes against ISIL-held petroleum sites in Iraq, which, he asserted, would cut into the funds available to the extremist group.
Coalition warplanes have also recently targeted a pharmaceutical factory in Mosul at which the group was allegedly developing chemical weapons, Dorian added, without providing a date for the airstrikes or a death toll.
In mid-2014, ISIL captured Mosul -- Iraq’s second largest city -- along with vast swathes of territory in the country’s northern and western regions.
In recent months, the Iraqi army, backed by coalition airstrikes, has managed to retake much territory. Nevertheless, ISIL remains in firm control of several parts of the country, including Mosul.
Army forces and peshmerga fighters have recently captured several areas on the outskirts of Mosul, which Iraqi officials have vowed to recapture by year’s end.