Still fighting over a handful of villages in the area, Iraqi forces say they are also intending to push further north along the Tigris River, into the area around the town of Qayara, a hugely strategically important site for the offensive against Mosul.
Qayara has a valuable airfield, which Iraqi officials say could be a major staging ground for an attack on ISIS-held Mosul. The town also has an oil refinery with a 16,000 barrel per day capacity, which if successfully recovered could be a valuable holding for Iraq, and a blow to ISIS in losing it.
That seems to be the working plan, but the Iraqi Army has struggled enough with the barely guarded villages in Nineveh Province, and Qayara is a valuable site that ISIS will likely defend to at least some extent. It remains to be seen if Iraq can overcome them and take the town.
US officials have been pessimistic about Iraq’s chances in Nineveh, particularly in Mosul itself, saying they have very poor logistics and have struggled to keep troops supplied this far north in the country. Iraq’s more successful offensives, like in Ramadi and Fallujah, were near the outskirts of Baghdad, limiting the supply line distance.