After weeks of talking up an invasion by Shi’ite militias against the Sunni Arab town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, Iraqi officials now say that the invasion will initially be carried out by a group of special forces including both Sunni and Shi’ite fighters.
The hope is that using actual Iraqi government forces, and a mix of both Sunni and Shi’ites, will reduce the risk of revenge killings after the forces take the area over. Such revenge killings have been common in places “liberated” by Shi’ite militias.
Iraq has previously tried to have another force take the city in places like Fallujah, but in that case, the militias were allowed in shortly after the city fell, and began carrying out revenge killings then. The militias around Fallujah also captured and tortured large numbers of fleeing Sunni civilians.
The expectation is that control of Tal Afar will prevent ISIS from receiving supplies or reinforcements from Syria, as well as preventing ISIS fighters inside Mosul from fleeing if they lose the city. There is concern, however, that it will also prevent Mosul’s civilians from fleeing.