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Iraqi Forces Reach Vicinity of Mosul Airport | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Smoke rises after a rocket landed in the middle of the Iraqi rapid response forces’ position during a battle against ISIS militants in the south of Mosul, Iraq February 19, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces reached the vicinity of Mosul airport on Monday after dislodging ISIS hardliners from a nearby hill, the Iraqi military said in a statement.

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces fought ISIS militants to clear way to the airport, on the second day of a ground offensive against the extremists remaining in the ISIS bastion in the western side of the city.

The Iraqi forces launched the offensive on Sunday to capture the west side of Mosul that remains under the control of the militants.

The militants were dislodged from the eastern part of the city last month. The Iraqi forces aim to take the airport, just south of Mosul, and turn it into a close support base for the offensive into the city itself.

On the other hand, the U.S. military is “not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil”, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said
as he arrived for talks with Iraqi leaders on Monday, distancing himself from remarks by President Donald Trump.

Mattis was the highest-ranking Trump administration official to visit Iraq since U.S. President Donald Trump irked Iraqis with a temporary ban on travel to the United States.

Trump told CIA staff in January: “We should have kept the oil. But okay. Maybe you’ll have another chance.”

Mattis, however, flatly ruled out any such intent. “We’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil,” he told reporters travelling with him late on Sunday, ahead of his arrival.

“All of us in America have generally paid for our gas and oil all along and I’m sure that we will continue to do so in the future,” said Mattis, a retired Marine general who once led forces in Iraq.