After weeks of trying to gain territory in the area, Iraqi forces finally arrived in the Qayara airbase, saying they found that the ISIS forces that were believed to be within had left some time ago. The base is intended to be a major launching pad for the attack on Mosul itself.
Officials only said that the Qayara airbase was captured, and it’s unclear if they’ve moved into the adjoining town of Qayara, along the Tigris River, as well as the nearby oil refinery. Such territory, though also valuable, would be secondary to the airbase.
That’s because Iraqi officials have continued to say they intend to liberate Mosul by year’s end, along with the entire rest of the country. US officials have warned against this, saying they don’t believe Iraq’s military is anywhere near ready to contest such a large city so far from Baghdad.
ISIS took the airbase in June of 2014, though it was never believed to have much of a presence, at least not after the major airstrikes in February of 2015. It’s unclear what condition the base is in at the moment, though it does have the wreckage of some warplanes.