Iraqi officials are claiming victory today in a two-day offensive against the town of Shirqat, along the Tigris River, saying they have taken at least 80% of the town away from ISIS so far, and have sent the ISIS fighters scrambling back toward Mosul.
Despite being presented as part of the Mosul offensive, Shirqat is quite a distance south of Mosul, roughly halfway between Mosul and Samarra along the river, and well south of Qayara, the site US and Iraqi officials are expecting to launch the Mosul offensive primarily from. Indeed, the primary value seems to be in preventing ISIS forces in Shirqat from threatening the highway between Baghdad and Qayara.
Shirqat itself as a minor town, though the overall district, including the entire surrounding area, is about 100,000 people. That’s significant, and also marks ISIS’ expulsion from one of its last holdings in the mostly Sunni Sallah-ad-Din Province.
The town had been surrounded for months by Iraqi troops and Shi’ite militias, though indications are that the militias did not take part in the offensive, and that rather smaller, Sunni pro-government militias were used to back up the military in the push.