BAGHDAD – It is official. The military operation of Allied armies to retake Mosul has started early on Monday, Prime Minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi stated on national TV.
“Our dearest people in Nineveh province, the victory bell has rung, and the operations to liberate Mosul have begun,” Mr. Abadi said. “I am announcing today the beginning of these heroic operations to liberate you from the brutality and terrorism of ISIL. God willing, we will meet soon on the ground of Mosul where we will all celebrate the liberation and your freedom.”
“Mosul operation will begin when announced by Prime Minister Abadi.” Special US President’s Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL Mr. Bred McGurk stated.
Mr. McGurk called the Mosul offensive “a historic operation”.
“Godspeed to the heroic Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, and #Ninewa volunteers. We are proud to stand with you in this historic operation,” he tweeted.
US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter called the operation “a decisive moment in the campaign”, AP reported.
Mr. Carter on behalf of US and other members of international coalition readiness “to support the Iraqi Security Forces, Peshmerga and the people of Iraq” during the fight he called “a difficult”. He said that he had confidence in the Iraqis to prevail against extremists and “free Mosul and the rest of Iraq”.
On Saturday a Peshmerga commander informed about the intensive fights around Mosul, a Iraqi city perceived as the capital of “Islamic state”.
The Mosul offensive may be the most complex military operation for the Iraqi forces since their humiliating defeat in 2014.
On Sunday the US and French air forces began targeting Islamic state terrorists in different districts of the second biggest city in Iraq.
Peshmerga Commander Omer Huseyin, from Camp Bashiqa in northern Iraq, said that American howitzers, which were deployed some 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) away from the Mosul city center, were hitting ISIL targets.
Mr. Huseyin said US-led coalition warplanes also hit areas where “Islamic state” terrorists were positioned.
“The Daesh terrorists started burning tires to block the view of the warplanes after international coalition forces struck the area,” he added.
Only forces with the Iraqi army and National Police will enter the city “and no others,” the Prime Minister of Iraq said.
Before the operation started, Brig. Gen Haider Fadhil told The Associated Press in an interview that more than 25,000 troops, including paramilitary forces made up of Sunni tribal fighters and Shiite militias, will take part in the offensive that will be launched from five directions around the city.
Military operation is focused on liberating the airport, taking positions at five bridges and then other parts of the city.
It is believed that complex infrastructure in the city is connected with the network of tunnels that can also become a way out of the city.
Mosul is a cosmopolitan city of 1.5 million. The Tiger river cuts the city into halves.
ISIL is holding its control over the city since June 2014.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, said in a statement that the operation to regain control of Mosul could take “weeks, possibly longer.”
“This may prove to be a long and tough battle, but the Iraqis have prepared for it and we will stand by them,” he said.
Kurdish Regional Government president Massoud Barzani said on Sunday that preparations were complete for retaking Mosul from Daesh, TRT television reported.
“I announce that all preparations to retake Mosul have been completed. An agreement has been made between the Iraqi army and Peshmerga forces in this context,” said Barzani on the Kurdish Regional Government website on Saturday.
Operation into Raqqa
If successful, the Mosul offensive will be followed by the battle against Raqqa, the Syrian capital of the terror group’s self-proclaimed caliphate.
“There’s an imperative to start moving on Raqqa,” said one senior administration official, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. “We need to get after these guys, because if we don’t they are going to hit us and our partners in a fairly dramatic way.”
The operation will be conducted in two parts: an isolation phase of an undetermined length followed by an attack phase.
The operation is not imminent, officials said, but ideally it should follow the Mosul operation closely so terrorist leaders can’t just escape from Iraq to Syria.
(AP, CNN, TRT, pht)