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U.S. Commander In Iraq Predicts Quick Capture Of IS Strongholds

Men ride a motorcycle past bodies of Islamic State militants killed in clashes in Mosul, Iraq, on February 6.

The top U.S. commander in Iraq says U.S.-backed forces will recapture Islamic State's two remaining strongholds within six months.

U.S. Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend told the Associated Press on February 8 that the military campaigns to liberate the Syrian city of Raqqa and the Iraqi city of Mosul will "conclude" within the next six months.

Townsend's prediction comes as U.S.-backed forces in Iraq prepare to fight for the western part of Mosul along with the U.S. military working on a new plan for President Donald Trump aimed at accelerating the drive to defeat IS militants, whom Trump has pledged to "wipe off the face of the Earth."

The plan is due to be presented to Trump late this month.

IS fighters have been weakened in recent months after significant victories in Iraq by forces loyal to Baghdad and advances by the Russian-aided Syrian Army in northern and central parts of Syria.

Turkish forces have also helped Syrian forces fighting against President Bashar al-Assad to regain territory.

Those battlefield defeats have considerably shrunk the territory held by IS militants in the past year in Iraq and Syria.

"What we would expect is that within the next few weeks the city [of Raqqa] will be nearly completely isolated," said U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian on February 8.

A U.S.-led multinational coalition has attacked IS forces in both Syria and Iraq with air strikes while advising and supporting Iraqi forces on the ground.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP