A week after Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of the US-led coalition, stated that victory against the Islamic State in Mosul could take up to two years and that forces “need to rest… assess how things are going because they are not going as fast as we thought”, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi responded on Wednesday that such remarks are “very pessimistic.”
The Iraqi Prime Minister had stated that offensive against the extremist group would end before 2017 when the operations began in October but that seem very unlikely.
“I foresee that in Iraq it will take three months” to end the war against the Islamic State, he said after stating that “Americans… used to talk about a really long period but the remarkable successes achieved by our brave and heroic fighters reduced that.” Government forces are fighting alongside Shia and Kurdish militia groups while the US-led coalition provides aerial support with its warplanes. The offensive operation progressed quickly, beyond expectations, when it was launched but has stalled significantly since last month. Around 2,000 members of the Iraqi security forces were killed across the country in November, almost three times the figure for October, according to the UN.
Mosul is the Islamic State’s de facto capital and its fall is expected to mark the end of its self-declared caliphate even though it still has control over other big towns such as Tel Afar, Qaim and Hawija. Taking over Mosul is expected to be one of the biggest battles because the extremist group conquered it in June 2014 and had fortified it to resist ground offensives while the presence of civilians continues to limit airstrikes on the town.
About 25% of Mosul is believed to have been retaken by government forces and on Tuesday, the bridge linking eastern and western Mosul was bombed as part of efforts “to reduce enemy freedom of movement”, according to a spokesman. The bombing could be seen as a strategic move following Lieutenant Colonel Stuart James remarks on Monday that they are “right now, positioning forces and positioning men and equipment into the interior of east Mosul” as he hinted that hostilities will be renewed “in the next several days.”