US-Backed Iraqi Forces Preparing to Retake Mosul From ISIS

Al-Akhbar is currently going through a transitional phase whereby the English website is available for Archival purposes only. All new content will be published in Arabic on the main website (www.al-akhbar.com).

Al-Akhbar Management

Published Friday, January 23, 2015

The United States and Iraq are preparing to retake Iraq's second-largest city Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) by this summer, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

A group of Kurdish fighters and other Western-trained forces should be ready to launch the offensive by the spring or summer, the head of the US military's Central Command General Lloyd Austin told the Journal.

"If we did things alone or with some of the other allies on the ground, it could move faster," he told the newspaper. "But the Iraqis have to do this themselves."

The general said he had not decided whether to recommend that US forces accompany Iraqis on the offensive.

The US airstrikes have recently focused on putting pressure on ISIS-held Mosul. Kurdish peshmerga forces have also launched offensives against ISIS-held roads near Mosul, which is in the north of the country.

Austin told the newspaper that the international coalition fighting ISIS has made headway in its battle to roll back the group's control over large swaths of the country.

The Iraqi government recently asked for more weapons to help its military that collapsed in early stages of the fight against ISIS.

Meanwhile, Kurdish forces have recently criticized the US-led coalition against ISIS in organizing and launching further attacks.

The president of Iraqi Kurdistan complained on Friday about being excluded from a meeting in London this week of the US-led coalition, saying Kurdish fighters deserved more respect.

Masoud Barzani issued a statement saying it was "disheartening" that no Kurdish representative was invited to the meeting, where Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for greater military support.

"We were expecting everyone to show respect to the sacrifices made by the people of Kurdistan and its peshmerga by inviting a representative from Kurdistan to this event and similar such events," Barzani said.

His comments followed criticisms earlier this month from Iraq's prime minister and parliament speaker about the pace of the coalition's efforts, which US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel rejected as "unhelpful."

The US-led air campaign, which Washington claims aims to degrade ISIS' military capability, remains the subject of debate, with critics pointing to ISIS’ advances and battlefield successes despite the raids.

Iraqi Refugees

Amid the political scuffle on military and financial aids to anti-ISIS coalition, the situation of Iraqi refugees is getting worse due to cold winter storms.

Most of the 500,000 displaced people in the Kurdish province of Dohuk live in tent camps or are scattered in hotels, flats, schools and unfinished buildings, depending on what they can afford.

When Yazidis fled up Mount Sinjar to escape ISIS in August, they suffered through blistering heat that often reached 50 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) in a dramatic siege that captured world attention. But now temperatures have dropped below freezing.

"Life is very hard here. When the winter started, we had nothing to wear, and very basic food," Hassan Hisn Semmo told AFP, sheltering from pouring rain under a tent where young men are busy making tea for a funeral gathering.

The conditions are a little better in some camps such as Dawdia, but the lack of medical care and other shortages mean that the displaced's fight for survival isn't over yet.

"There are power cuts, kerosene for the heaters is in short supply and we don't always have enough clothes on our backs," said Nayef Khalaf Hussein, 42.

As he spoke, he showed cold burns on his three-year-old nephew's skin, one of nine siblings he is looking after since their father died of a heart attack during the August violence and their mother of leukemia this month.

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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