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An uptick in airstrikes in northern Iraq last week marked the beginning of a broader effort to disrupt ISIS supply lines ahead of an expected operation later this year to take back the city from militants, according to U.S. military officials.The airstrikes, said one senior military official, are the start of a new phase, and military leaders are watching to see how ISIS militants respond as their supply and communications lines dry up.At the Pentagon, Rear Adm. John Kirby said Friday that U.S. efforts to train Iraqi forces and moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS militants were moving forward, even as insurgents still control about 55,000 square kilometers of Iraq.Kirby said that about 700 square kilometers in Iraq have been regained from militants, mostly by Kurdish forces in the north.U.S. officials estimate there were between 20,000 and about 30,000 insurgent fighters, including core ISIS militants and other aligned militias.
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