Iraqi general calls for surrender of IS militants in Mosul

Casey Mills
October 20, 2016

This farming village east of Mosul was turned into a bunker during more than two years of rule by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant group: A network of tunnels and cramped living quarters betrays an extremist group increasingly forced to operate underground by a punishing air campaign and mounting territorial losses. "There will be advances and there will be setbacks", Obama said, as the Pentagon warned ISIS was barring civilians from fleeing the city and using them as human shields.

The operation to retake Mosul is the largest launched by the Iraqi army since the 2003 US -led invasion.

The United States expects the Islamic State group to use crude chemical weapons as it tries to repel an Iraqi-led offensive on the city of Mosul, US officials say, although adding that the group's technical ability to develop such weapons is highly limited. But U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has said U.S. troops are still in harm's way.

A wave of Iraqi and Kurdish troops are descending on the city of Mosul with the intent of driving out Islamic State fighters who have been entrenched there for two years. He also agreed that there were some executions, but his estimate of the number was much lower.

There are caveats. Iraq veteran David French points out, "The next president will have to demonstrate a long-term commitment to Iraq's future, and we can't fall victim to short-term, impulse-driven politics".

In northern Syria, details are not released, given the sensitivity of the operations. USA special operations forces sometimes stay in the country for several weeks at a time. Some U.S. advisers work at the division headquarters level. And there is bickering now as Kurdish and Iraqi commanders trade blame over the slowed Kurdish advance on the town of Bashiqa.

With the crucial battle in its second day, Iraqi commanders said progress was being made as fighters pushed on two main fronts against the jihadists' last stronghold in Iraq. The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, did not provide specific figures.

"When I came to the edge of the village I didn't want to come in", he said.

American forces dealing with Syria are based in neighboring countries, such as Turkey and Iraq, and travel in and out of Syria, at times staying there a few days at a time. They will be engaged in the fight with the Iraqis.

A spokesman for the US -led coalition said Tuesday the operation is "on or ahead of schedule".

Since airstrikes began in August 2014, over 10,200 airstrikes had been carried out in Iraq and almost 5,600 in Syria. August saw a second consecutive month that coalition airstrikes in Syria outnumbered those in Iraq. Iraq's leaders have said that only Iraqi government troops and national police officers will be allowed to do so amid fears of sectarian retribution, he said.

Taking Tal Afar would in effect cut off the escape route for militants wanting to head into neighbouring Syria and would please the Iran-backed army of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which accuses the US -led anti-Islamic State coalition of planning to allow the jihadists such a safe passage. Many Daesh militants pulled back to the Abassiya village.

In Syria, Washington views President Bashar Assad's government as illegitimate and can not partner with him. Russia's air force, along with that of Syria, has been bombing targets in the country, including those of IS.

But diplomatic talks with Russian Federation disintegrated this month after the US formally accused Russian Federation of trying to meddle in the USA election by hacking USA political groups.

Timeframes provided by American and Iraqi officials for recapturing Mosul is generally a few weeks, or longer.

"Turkey's thesis is that Mosul is one of the key cities in the fight against Daesh".

But the potential for direct confrontation between the Kurds and Turkish and Ankara-backed Syrian forces "would cause a huge ripple in the strategy" and would be hard for the mitigate while conducting a major operation on the Iraqi side, she said. "Regarding their evacuation, the army will receive them and we'll move them to safe areas that have been specified for them".

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