US, allies prepare largest anti-ISIS operation in northern Iraq: official

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Kurdish Peshmerga fighters firing at ISIS positions near Mosul. File photo

ARA News

The battle for Mosul is close and the Islamic State (ISIS) radical group will soon be removed from its major bastion in northern Iraq, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

“Nobody should be surprised by the notion that the fight for Mosul is close and that we have every intention working with our local partners on the ground and the coalition of achieving that goal as soon as possible,” a Pentagon spokesman said during a press briefing on Thursday about the operation that is expected to be launched this month.

Experts suggest the Mosul operation will at least take six to nine months, depending on the resistance from ISIS. There also remains the possibility that ISIS flees to Raqqa instead of resisting.

“It’s no surprise to people that we are going after Mosul, that the coalition is, the Iraqis are, the Iraqis are leading this effort,” the Pentagon spokesperson said. “We’re not going to reveal details about how that’s going to be carried out. The Iraqis to their credit aren’t going to do that as well.” 

The Pentagon further stressed that the US wants to prevent sectarian rifts in Mosul–that broke out under the former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and led to the emergence of ISIS. 

“Those [sectarian] tensions led to ISIL in the first place. And so I think the [defence] secretary [Carter] certainly feels confident that this is a conversation that he and Prime Minister Abadi have discussed at length,” the spokesman said.

Nevertheless, there are ongoing fears about the participation of the Shia Popular Mobilization Committees (PMU) in Mosul.

Qais al-Khazaali, the leader of pro-Iranian Asaab Ahl al-Haq militia said that the PMU would participate in the Mosul operation.

“The liberation of Mosul will be a revenge for the killing of imam Hussain,” he said on Wednesday.  

Local sources suggest that 15,000 trained Sunni volunteers from Mosul –that took part in the battle for Qayyarah– will join the PMU in the Mosul battle.

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