London, Washington, and Baghdad – U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said that despite being difficult, recapturing Mosul from ISIS is possible before the next U.S. Administration.
About 100,000 Iraqi government troops, Kurdish security forces and Shiite fighters are participating in the offensive on Mosul that began on Oct. 17, with air and ground support from a U.S.-led coalition.
Recapturing Mosul, largest city under control of ISIS, is crucial to eliminate the “caliphate” which was declared by militants in parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014.
“That is certainly possible and again it is going to be a tough fight,” Carter said when asked by Reuters if the recapture would be complete before Jan. 20, when Trump starts his presidency.
In a series of counter-attacks since Friday, ISIS militants attacked elite Iraqi troops leading the offensive in eastern Mosul, and attacked security forces in the south and west of the city.
“Obviously there are always weather issues … the Iraqi security forces are prepared for any eventuality there,” Carter added.
Iraqi officials say they continue to gain ground against the militants who still have control over about three-quarters of the country’s largest northern city.
But the fierce resistance means the military’s campaign could continue to next year as it seeks to recapture a city where extremists stay among civilians and using a network of tunnels to launch series of attacks.
The U.S. Secretary did not explain how the recapture could be completed before January 20 amid ISIS resistance. In a separate speech in California on Saturday, Carter left the door open for U.S. and coalition forces to stay in Iraq after Islamic State had been removed.
“In Iraq in particular, it will be necessary for the coalition to provide sustained assistance and carry on our work to train, equip, and support local police, border guards, and other forces to hold areas cleared from ISIS,” continued Carter.
In the field, Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) officer admitted that nine PMF fighters were killed in different areas around the west axes of Mosul.
Captain Karrar Ibrahim told Deutsche Welle (DW) that ISIS militants attacked PMF forces in areas west of Mosul using booby-trapped cars and suicide attacks.
ISIS also executed 11 persons in the areas under its control to the west of Kirkuk.
Sheikh Anwar al-Assi also told DW that ISIS militants executed four young men in Hawija district for cases of contacting the Iraqi security forces. He reported that ISIS arrested a family of five members, including a woman, on their way to Rabida village and killed them all.