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28 Dec, 2016 01:57

Iraqi PM says 3 more months needed to ‘eliminate’ ISIS in Iraq as Mosul op stalls

Iraqi PM says 3 more months needed to ‘eliminate’ ISIS in Iraq as Mosul op stalls

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi said that it will take Iraqi army backed by US-led coalition another three months to flush out Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) fighters from the country as the large-scale offensive in Mosul goes into its third month.

“Conditions indicate that Iraq needs three months to eliminate Daesh [ISIS],” Iraqi TV quoted Abadi as saying on Tuesday following a government meeting in Baghdad. 

The previous estimates by Abadi suggested that the northern Iraqi city, which has been held by IS since June 2014, would be liberated by the end of 2016. However, after having rapidly gained ground at approaches to Mosul in October, the Iraqi forces have since slowed down as they entered the city.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of the coalition forces battling Islamic State in Iraq, told the Daily Beast on Monday that the coalition may need as much as two years to rout IS from its two self-proclaimed capitals of Mosul, in northern Iraq, and Raqqa in Syria.

Referring to the Mosul campaign, Townsend said that during a past week the Iraqi forces have halted their advance further into the city to take a much-needed respite and replenish resources. He claimed that Iraqi senior military officials are reluctant to admit that the offensive is not going as fast as they hoped. 

READ MORE: ISIS made 1,000s of mortars & rockets using ‘industrial’ production in Mosul – study

“People need to rest. They need to assess how things are going because they are not going as fast as we thought,” Townsend said. 

Reuters cited a US commander on the ground as saying that the Iraqi army is poised to restart the operation in the coming days in which the US troops are expected to move closer to the battleground frontline inside the city. 

Earlier, it was reported that over 5,000 US troops deployed in Iraq have been embedding with other coalition forces engaged in the Operation Inherent Resolve on the frontlines, including in Mosul.  

At the same time, the US has repeatedly denied that the American forces are going to take on a combat role in Mosul, arguing that it will be limited to “training, advising and assisting.”

“Right now, positioning forces and positioning men and equipment into the interior of east Mosul… it’s going to happen in the next several days,” Lieutenant Colonel Stuart James told the agency on Monday.

Reacting to Townsend’s comments on the offensive’s timeline, Abadi called the forecast “very pessimistic,” saying that it underestimates the potential of Iraqi forces.

“The Americans were very pessimistic. They used to talk about a really long period, but the remarkable successes achieved by our brave and heroic fighters reduced that. I foresee that in Iraq it will take three months,” he said, as cited by Reuters. At the same time, Abadi stated that the general’s estimate might be true for Syria and that indeed two years will be needed to get rid of Islamic State cells there.

The efforts to liberate Mosul have been severely hampered by the terrorists’ widespread use of civilians as human shields. 

READ MORE: ISIS targets civilians in Mosul; Iraqi, coalition forces also cause civilian deaths – HRW

According to Townsend, “a fighter walking out of a building will hold a child over his head so we can see him through ISR until he reaches another building.”

It is estimated that some 1.5 million civilians may still be trapped inside the city, unable to flee out of fear they will face executions. On Tuesday, the coalition forces attempted to impede militants’ movements inside the city destroying the bridge connecting western and eastern parts in a bombing raid.