Iraq anticipates final days of ISIS in Mosul
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 sq.km 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.”