US ground troops in northwestern Iraq are reporting that they “move around a lot” lately, as Iraqi troops move north toward the area around Mosul, trying to keep an eye on Iraqi forces which the Pentagon has long insisted aren’t ready for such an offensive, but which recently have been suggesting are going to push into Mosul soon anyhow.
A group of US troops are supervising as Iraqi Army engineers attempt to repair a bridge on the Great Zab River, near Qayara. The troops took the Qayara airbase recently, which was undefended, and it is seen as a key staging area for the Mosul push.
Qayara is also an example of the long, difficult task ahead. The airbase was undefended because it had been repeatedly bombed by US warplanes, which rendered it useless, and even the bridge spanning the river nearby was gone. Iraq’s Army, which struggles at logistics in the best of times, is now facing a difficult task of getting this airbase into a usable form in time for the government’s promised offensive against Mosul, by year’s end.
That’s a tall order, and while the US troops are praising the Iraqi engineers for repairs done to the bridge, it’s still not in a usable form. Even when it is, the US troops say they’ll just get sent someplace else in the area, supervising another in a broad array of projects that the Iraqi military needs to overcome before the offensive can even hope to get off the ground.