Iraq deploying thousands in hopes of seizing Mosul

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Life in Mosul
Iraqi army officials is deploying thousands of Iraqi soldiers to a northern base in hopes of retaking Mosul, ISIS’ main headquarters, according to an Iraqi official on Monday. ISIS captured Mosul two years and has continued to hold the city unopposed for almost two years as Iraq’s security forces battled the terror group in other parts of the country. Units from the Iraqi army have begun arriving to a military base near the Makhmur district to start launching initial military operations toward Mosul. Iraqi forces recaptured Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, west of Baghdad, in December in a major blow to the jihadists.
Iraq army preparing to fight for Mosul
(Leila Gorchev/Getty Images)

Military advisers say the battle for Mosul will be the most difficult battle of Iraq’s war against ISIS due to its size, the number of civilians left in the city and the length of time the terror network have had to prepare defenses. It is the largest city controlled by ISIS along with Raqa. The initial aim is to sever IS supply lines between Mosul and areas farther south including Hawijah in Kirkuk province and areas near Baiji in Salaheddin.

Three brigades are currently stationed at the northern base and their numbers are expected to reach 4,500 soldiers. Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland, the commander of the US-led operation against IS, has said that Iraqi generals do not think they will be able to recapture Mosul until the end of 2016 or early 2017 at the earliest.

A Kurdish official said that most of the soldiers deployed to Makhmur, which is located within territory controlled by Iraqi Kurdistan, are ethnic Kurds from the Iraqi army. Shakhwan Abdullah, a Kurdish lawmaker on the federal parliament’s security and defense committee, confirmed that Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan had coordinated on the deployment. “Establishing this base cost around $10 million,” said Abdullah, adding that the base would be turned over to Kurdish Peshmerga forces after the recapture of Mosul.

Multiple Iraqi divisions collapsed during the early days of IS’s 2014 offensive, abandoning thousands of vehicles as well as weapons and other equipment to the jihadists. ISIS ultimately overran around a third of the country, but Iraqi forces have since regained significant areas from the jihadists, with the help of US-led air strikes and training. Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi visited the Makhmur base on Saturday, ordering that all measures be taken to speed up the completion of the site, the ministry said.

Gruesome violence has plagued the northern and western parts of Iraq ever since Daesh launched an offensive in the country in June 2014. The militants have been committing vicious crimes against all ethnic and religious communities in Iraq, including Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians and others. Iraqi army soldiers and fighters from allied Popular Mobilization Units are seeking to win back militant-held regions in joint operations.