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27 Feb, 2017 16:00

‘Obama wanted quick victory in Mosul, now it's going to be a tough fight’ - Alastair Crooke

‘Obama wanted quick victory in Mosul, now it's going to be a tough fight’ - Alastair Crooke

Politicians want victory quickly, they are not prepared to wait for a long siege in Mosul to take its effect, as with the Obama administration things were put together in a hurry, says British diplomat Alastair Crooke, founder of the Conflicts Forum.

In Iraq, more than 2,000 people fled the city of Mosul in one day as a US-backed offensive pushes into Western neighborhoods.

It's believed to be the biggest exodus since local forces stepped up their operations to retake Mosul from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) a week ago.

The UN has expressed grave concerns about the humanitarian situation there as it is working to expand its camps near the city that are currently overflowing with refugees fleeing the war zone.

RT: Civilians in Mosul are telling the media that snipers and air support are targeting ISIS in residential areas. What can be done to avoid civilian casualties in this fight?

Alastair Crooke: It is always difficult to avoid civilian casualties, it you want a frank answer it is impossible to avoid civilian casualties in urban warfare of this time. Because, of course, the insurgents will be dug in, they will be underground, there will be booby traps. They will often use the civilian population to try and clear positions. So, there are going to be certainly casualties and many deaths. Unfortunately, it is always the civilians who are the main victims of this type of fighting.

RT:  How could we minimize them? We know that one of the most effective tactics in this regard is the use of humanitarian corridors, why haven't we seen them in Mosul?

AC: There is a way of doing it, and that is the way that has been used extensively in Syria which is, first of all, you clear the area around the city of support for insurgents, bases around the city. You control the area around the city, then you impose a siege, not a siege on the civilians but a siege on the insurgents so that their ammunition runs down, they are exhausted, they get tired, they get weaker. And then you open corridors, and you encourage civilians to come out.

The problem has always been in many of these places that the politicians want these things to be solved quickly; they are not prepared to wait for a long siege to take its effect. They do not want to wait. They want a victory. They want a victory now to show. And much of the timing of Mosul was trying to in fact get a victory before President Obama left office. So, things were put together in a hurry in order that he could have a quick victory. At that point, he was expecting that ISIS would simply filter out of Mosul and head off to Raqqa which the American authorities seemed would be happy with that result - pushing the problem into Syria and out of Mosul. In the event that has not happened, and it is going to be a really difficult fight.

The Iraqi Army is losing many men, there have been many casualties in the Golden Brigade. And the problem is what I hear is that ISIS have actually dug a city under the city. They have not just a few tunnels, they have a city under the city. It is going to be very hard to dig it out.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.