Abadi says Trump promised Iraq ‘increased’ support
London - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al- Abadi said he anticipates the United States’ incoming Trump administration to grant Iraq more logistical support in its war against the Islamic State (ISIS).
“In my telephone call with President-elect [Donald] Trump, he assured me that US support will not only continue but it is going to be increased,” Abadi said in an interview November 28th with the Associated Press.
“Over the last two years, we have seen ups and downs in the support of the US to Iraq,” said Abadi, noting that at times “the support was very slow, very painful, not adequate [but] later on I think it was developed”.
Abadi added: “I think I am going to be looking forward to more US support at this time.”
He said he hoped to see a “major part of” the city of Mosul recaptured from ISIS by the end of 2016. “I don’t put a timeline on it [the liberation of Mosul], but I hope that a major part of the city will be in the hands of the Iraqi security forces this year,” he said.
Abadi said ISIS fighters lack the courage to put up long-term resistance in Mosul, despite unleashing hundreds of car bombs that have killed and maimed Iraqi soldiers.
“We have seen the whole organisation collapsing in terms of standing in the face of our own armed forces,” Abadi said. “The success of liberating a huge area indicates that Daesh does not have the guts now or the motivation to fight as they were doing before,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
Abadi said Mosul was encircled and that the speed with which the area was secured surpassed his expectations. He declined to say how many Iraqi troops have been killed since the operation began in October but said the rate of battlefield losses was “sustainable”.
Since Abadi took office two years ago, Iraqi forces have retaken more than half of the territory ISIS held at the height of its power when the militants controlled about one-third of the country.
Mosul is the last urban stronghold ISIS holds in Iraq and liberating it would lead to the group’s demise as its ability to recruit foreign fighters and attract financing dries up, Abadi said.
“This is like a snake. If you hit it in the middle or the tail, it’s no use. I have to hit it on the head,” he said. “And the head of this terrorist organisation is Mosul. If I remove Mosul from them, this is a huge blow… to its efforts to recruit young people from different countries of the world.”
Under Abadi, Shia militia forces, which have been accused by international human rights groups of committing abuses against civilians, have grown increasingly powerful.
Abadi acknowledged that some Shia militia fighters, who are fighting ISIS under the banner of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), have been guilty of atrocities against civilians. “Any time I hear there is a violation or abuse, I immediately start an investigation into it. My role is not to cover up for the crimes of others,” he said.
Iraqi special forces fighting ISIS on the eastern side of Mosul have retaken 19 neighbourhoods from the militant group since the battle for the city began.
Brigadier-General Haider Fadhil of the special forces told the Associated Press his men were about 4km from the Tigris river, which slices the city in half. He said the 19 neighbourhoods constituted less than 30% of the part of the city east of the Tigris.
Already suffering from a severe lack of food and electricity, civilians in Iraq’s second city are also running out of drinkable water, said Lise Grande, UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq. Up to 500,000 civilians in Mosul are facing a “catastrophic” drinking water shortage, the United Nations warned.
Since the launch of the assault on October 17th, more than 70,000 people have fled the fighting but more than 1 million people are estimated to remain in the city, including about 600,000 in the eastern neighbourhoods.
Abdelkarim al-Obeidi, the secretary-general of the local civil society organisation Mosul People Gathering, warned of a “humanitarian disaster” in the making.
“The government as well as aid organisations must step up and offer assistance to the people, especially those families forced to drink water from the wells that is not fit for drinking,” he said.
At a hospital in the village of Gogjali on the eastern outskirts of Mosul, a medical source said civilians were arriving with “cases of diarrhoea and intestinal cramps, especially among children”.
While it was unclear what had caused the water shortage, some residents blamed the US-led coalition backing Iraqi forces in the assault, saying its warplanes had damaged the main pipeline that delivers water from the western side of the city.