Iraqi forces in Mosul performing ‘at their peak’, says US commander | Iraq
A top US commander in Iraq on Sunday gave a vote of confidence to Iraqi forces fighting to retake the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State militants, saying those forces were currently “at their peak” and adjusting well to realities. changing on the battlefield.
Speaking in an interview, Brigadier General Rick Uribe said he agreed with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s prediction that it would take another three months to liberate Mosul, Iraq’s last urban center in the hands of extremist group.
“I think it seems reasonable that we could potentially have a liberated Mosul around this time,” Uribe said, dismissing the idea that Iraqi forces were behind the times.
“We’re pretty close to where we want to be,” Uribe said, explaining that military planners knew that while the initial push into the city would be quick, progress would become “significantly” slower on the outskirts of the city.
Uribe, speaking in Erbil, capital of the Kurdish Autonomous Region in northern Iraq, said Iraqi forces north and south of Mosul had made progress since launching a new offensive last week after a two-week lull in the fighting.
A government campaign to liberate Mosul and its surroundings in Nineveh province began in mid-October. More than two months later, the only major fighting inside the city has been fought by the elite counter-terrorism forces, also known as the “Golden Division”.
Since the start of the new offensive, special forces have advanced in at least two neighborhoods in the eastern sector of the city, while the 9th and 16th army divisions have also advanced south and north of the capital respectively.
The Ninth Division was joined by units of the Militarized Federal Police, while the 16th was reinforced by Army units.
“I think the forces right now, the Iraqi security forces, as we sit here today on January 1, 2017, are at their peak and I think they will continue to improve from the lessons that they learn every day,” Uribe said. , whose formal title is Deputy Commanding General – Baghdad of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command.
Uribe said Iraqi forces, backed by a US-led coalition, would face a different fight as they crossed the west bank of the Tigris, saying it would be primarily a battle “on foot “conducted partly in narrow streets, some of which were not wide enough to allow the passage of a vehicle.
“It will be a different fight and they will adjust as they move from east to west. They are already planning these adjustments,” he said.
He praised Iraqi security forces for what he said was doing everything possible in Mosul to protect civilians.
“They were extremely good at taking care of these civilians. I don’t know if you would have seen this a few years ago,” he said. “It was part of the training [by the coalition]. You must treat people with dignity and respect. You can’t walk into a city and make it worse than before.
Iraqi authorities have advised the roughly 1 million civilians believed to still be inside Mosul to stay at home until the city is fully liberated, but fear of being caught in the crossfire between government forces and the militants then forced at least 120,000 residents to flee away.
Many are also leaving the city because they have run out of food and money, or because of a lack of essential services like water and electricity.