Iraq Forces Getting Ready for First Push into Mosul
Elite Iraqi forces were poised Tuesday for a first push into Mosul, after the prime minister warned terrorist groups who hold the city have no choice but to surrender or die.
Forces from Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) were fighting the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) in Gogjali, a village on the eastern edge of Mosul that they reached on Monday.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi appeared on state television on Monday wearing camouflage uniform.
“We will close in on (IS) from every place,” he said.
“They don’t have an exit, they don’t have an escape, they can only surrender — they can die or they can surrender.”
For the time being, the terrorists do have an escape route — to the west towards ISIL-controlled territory in neighboring Syria.
Paramilitary forces from the Popular Mobilisation Forces have been advancing north in a bid to cut it but they still have some way to go.
They are not directly headed for Mosul, instead setting their sights on the town of Tal Afar which commands the city’s western approaches.
The PMF said on Monday that they had retaken a series of villages during their advance and surrounded others.
On the northern and eastern sides of Mosul, peshmerga forces from the autonomous Kurdish region have taken a series of villages and towns and consolidated their positions.
To the south, federal forces, backed by coalition artillery units stationed in the main staging base of Qayyarah, have been pushing north.
They have the most ground to cover and are still some distance from the southern limits of Mosul.
The initial shaping phase of the operation, during which dozens of villages and several towns have already been retaken from ISIL, is still under way.
Once it is over, Iraqi forces are expected to besiege Mosul, try to open safe corridors for the million-plus civilians still believed to be inside, and then enter the city to take on die-hard terrorists in street battles.
ISIL has been losing ground steadily in Iraq since 2015 and the outcome of the Mosul battle is in little doubt, but commanders have warned it could last months.