Iraq anticipates final days of ISIS in Mosul

Sunday 21/05/2017
No third option. A member of the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Services (CTS) holds a position as CTS forces advance in western Mosul, on May 16. (AFP)

London- The Iraqi government is pushing to declare vic­tory against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Mosul by the holy month of Rama­dan — expected to begin May 27 — even if pockets of resistance remain in the Old City, military command­ers said.

“If we advance this quickly we can finish it in days,” First-Lieuten­ant Nawfal al-Dhari told Reuters at a temporary base in the western Islah al-Ziraie district. “These are their dying breaths. They are com­pletely surrounded.”

Iraqi forces have recaptured nearly 90% of western Mosul from ISIS and militants in the city are on the “brink of total defeat,” officers said.

Iraqi forces launched the massive operation to retake Mosul from ISIS nearly seven months ago, fighting their way to the city, retaking its eastern side and attacking the west.

Brigadier-General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for Iraq’s Joint Op­erations Command, said at a news conference in Baghdad that ISIS has been dislodged from all but 12 of Mosul by Iraqi forces.

Rasool said that 16,467 ISIS mili­tants had been killed in the opera­tion to retake Mosul. Nearly 400 others had been taken prisoner.

Staff Lieutenant-General Abdul­wahab al-Saadi, a senior Iraqi spe­cial forces commander, and US Air Force Colonel John Dorrian, the spokesman for the US-led interna­tional coalition against ISIS, said the end was near for jihadists in Mosul.

“They have two options: Die and go to hell or raise the white flag. They have no third option,” Saadi told Agence France-Presse (AFP) at his headquarters in Mosul.

“The enemy is completely sur­rounded,” Dorrian said at the news conference in Baghdad. “The en­emy is on the brink of total defeat in Mosul.”

The drive to retake Mosul has been supported by coalition air strikes in and around the city. Dor­rian said those attacks destroyed more than 300 explosives-rigged vehicles in Mosul and around 200 ISIS tunnels and 1,000 militant fighting positions.

Brett McGurk, special US presi­dential envoy for the global coali­tion to counter ISIS, told the Asso­ciated Press (AP) that the operation against ISIS in Mosul was approach­ing its “final stages.”

“The world is now seeing that (Iraqi) soldiers are completely de­stroying Daesh,” McGurk said, us­ing the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

Western Mosul’s narrow streets and closely spaced buildings make it difficult for federal forces to take on the militants, requiring them to fight on foot instead of from vehi­cles as they have previously done.

Some 500,000 have been dis­placed because of the battle for Mosul and 250,000 civilians are estimated to be trapped inside the city’s western neighbourhoods. The presence of a large civilian population, which either chose not to leave or was prevented from do­ing so by ISIS, complicates any final assault to seal victory in Mosul.

While coalition air strikes aided the advance of Iraqi forces, they also reportedly caused hundreds of civilian casualties. Human shields have become a central feature of the militants’ defences and ISIS has stopped at nothing to deter people from escape, including killing those who seek to flee.

Trapped residents reached by AFP inside ISIS-held areas warned that hunger was starting to kill more people than the fighting.

In eastern Mosul, life returned to a semblance of normality fairly quickly after Iraqi forces drove the militants back neighbourhood by neighbourhood until the area was fully recaptured earlier this year.

ISIS holds other territory in Nin­eveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, as well as in Kirkuk and Anbar, while Syria’s Raqqa — ISIS’s proclaimed capital — is also con­trolled by militants.

Iraq continues to struggle with an economic crisis and the central government has called on the in­ternational community to provide funding.

Nuraddin Qablan, the deputy president of the Nineveh provincial council told the AP that an estimat­ed $100 billion would be needed to “put the city of Mosul back on its feet again.”

US contributions to Iraqi recon­struction are unlikely to meet the country’s needs. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has emphasised the limited role the United States will play in the reconstruction of Iraq and Syria.

“As a coalition, we are not in the business of nation-building or re­construction,” Tillerson said at a foreign ministers meeting in Wash­ington in March. Instead, he said the United States would equip “war torn communities to take the lead in rebuilding their institutions and returning to stability.”