Speaking to a group of coalition defense and foreign ministers today, US special envoy to the ISIS War Brett McGurk claimed that the “liberation of Mosul is now in sight,” the first time a US official has suggested that the recapture of the major northern Iraqi city might be imminent.
It comes after recent US escalations in Iraq to build up the Qayara Airbase, south of Mosul, which is seen as a likely launchpad for the offensive. Repairing the base could take some time, since the US had been bombing it off and on for two years.
McGurk’s comment, then, is in keeping with Iraq’s intention to escalate its presence around Mosul, but is the exact opposite of what Pentagon officials have been saying all summer. US military officials have repeatedly said the Iraqi military is nowhere near ready to try to take Mosul from ISIS, and lacks the logistics capability to even reliably get troops up that far north.
Iraq tried to take some villages not far from Mosul earlier this year, and only seemed to ever take villages that ISIS had no fighters in. Even then, the troops often ran short on supplies and many deserted. While the capture of Qayara, a bit farther south, is of some use, it too came without any resistance from ISIS, and so long as ISIS has fighters in Mosul, by far its largest city, Iraq can’t count on walking in uncontested.
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